Aurorae - Aurorae This nice picture is from Jan Curtis'...

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Aurorae This nice picture is from Jan Curtis' Aurora Page . Select the link to see more of his aurora photography. One glorious effect seen when the solar wind interacts with a planet's magnetic field is aurorae . Aurorae are shimmering light displays produced by molecules in the upper atmosphere. Fluctuations in the solar wind can give energy to the trapped charged particles in the belts. Particles with enough energy can leave the belts and spiral down to the atmosphere to collide with molecules and atoms in the thermosphere of a planet. These collisions excite the atmosphere molecules (bumping their electrons to higher energy levels). The electrons then release the excess energy as they hop downward back toward the atomic nuclei. The glow of the aurorae is the emission line spectra produced by the electrons in the rarefied gas dropping back down to lower atomic energy levels.
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Aurorae seen from the Space Shuttle courtesy of NASA. Notice the colors of the aurorae at different altitudes and the large gap between the aurorae and the surface. More aurorae from
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Aurorae - Aurorae This nice picture is from Jan Curtis'...

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