What flips on the Northern Lights?

7:38 AM, Jun 9, 2011   |    comments
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- They look cool, but do you know what flips the switch on the Northern Lights?

Major solar flares from the sun have sent massive amounts of particles into the Earth's atmosphere, meaning that we may see the Northern Lights over the next few days.

These particles from the solar flare also called a solar wind are pulled into the Earth's atmosphere and then the particles glow when they interact with the gasses in the Earth's atmosphere.

The glowing particles are called the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. The most common color seen with the Northern Lights is green, but sometimes other colors like red and blue are visible.

The Earth's magnetic field at the north and south pole is very strong and pulls most of the solar flare particles into those regions. During large solar flares sometimes the Northern Lights can be seen as far south as New Orleans, but usually the Northern Lights in the Northern Hemisphere are seen from far northern Minnesota to the north Pole.

It is rare to see the Northern Lights in the Twin Cities but on occasion it happens.

The next few nights through the weekend between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. people in Minnesota and Wisconsin will have the chance to see the Northern Lights if skies are clear.

Unfortunately, much of that area will be cloudy Thursday night through Friday night but then clearing over the weekend.

The recent strong solar flares this past week will give people from Reno to Kansas City and east to Ohio an opportunity to see the evening lights.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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