JUL 01, 2018 10:01 PM PDT

Can The Northern Lights Lead To A Global Catastrophe?

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

The aurora of the Northern Lights is created due to two things that begin from the sun: solar wind and the magnetosphere.

Around the surface of the sun, lies the corona which is an aura of plasma that extends millions of kilometers into space reaching temperature of more than 1,000,000 °C. Because of the extreme temperature, contents of plasma are constantly leaving the sun at high speed which is a process known as the solar wind.

Once the solar wind reaches the surface of the Earth, it encounters the magnetosphere of our planet. The magnetosphere is the Earth’s magnetic field generated deep in the swirling liquid iron core. It is that interaction between the magnetic field and the solar winds that allow us to witness the Northern Lights.

Although the Northern Lights appear beautiful and harmless, they pose a deadly danger. When solar winds reaching the Earth’s surface, exceed their normal maximum speeds, then this is due to the coronal mass ejections from the sun. These coronal mass injections can cause the Northern Lights to damage electronics due to high power surges, alter the directional forces that guide marine animals, and damage DNA due to high radiation.

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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