How the Northern Lights are formed

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Ongoing geomagnetic storms have led to sightings of the Northern Lights across North America this week, the result of a coronal mass ejection from the Sun that occurred on Sunday, sending a stream of charged particles toward Earth.

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are caused by blasts of magnetic plasma from the Sun that react with the Earth’s own magnetic field. Some of the charged particles from the solar wind enter the Earth’s atmosphere and are drawn to the magnetic north pole and magnetic south pole. These particles excite atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, causing them to give off photons of light as they quiet down.

The solar wind can cause the Earth’s magnetic field lines to disconnect from the planet. When the magnetic field lines reconnect, charged particles from the solar wind enter the Earth’s atmosphere, causing aurora.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Solar storm
2. Solar wind hitting Earth’s magnetic field
3. Solar storm causing magnetic field line to disconnect
4. Atoms excited

VOICEOVER (in English):

“Ongoing geomagnetic storms have led to sightings of the northern lights across North America this week.”

“The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are caused by blasts of magnetic plasma from the Sun reacting with the Earth’s own magnetic field.”

“Some of the charged particles from the solar wind enter the Earth’s atmosphere and are drawn to the magnetic north pole and magnetic south pole. These particles excite atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, causing them to emit light.”

“The solar wind can cause the Earth’s magnetic field lines to disconnect from the planet. When the magnetic field lines reconnect, charged particles from the solar wind enter the Earth’s atmosphere, causing aurora.”

“When atoms are excited, electrons orbiting around the nucleus of the atom move to higher-energy orbits. When electrons move back down, they release photons, or particles of light.”

“Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland are hoping to use satellites to improve their ability to track and forecast the scale and impact of solar storms.”

SOURCES: CBC, BBC, The Guardian, Northern Lights Centre
http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/aurora-northern-and-southern-lights-visible-far-and-wide-thanks-to-solar-ejection-1.3123977
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26381685
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/18/solar-storm-delivers-spectacular-aurora-displays-and-pictures
http://www.northernlightscentre.ca/northernlights.html