TUESDAY, JUNE 8TH, 2021
🖊CNN 📸OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images
The aurora borealis, or northern lights, could easily be described as Earth's greatest light show. A phenomenon that's exclusive to the higher latitudes has had scientists in awe and wonder for centuries.
The mystery surrounding what causes the northern lights has been speculated but never proven, until now.
The great aurora mystery finally solved
A group of physicists from the University of Iowa have finally proven that the "most brilliant auroras are produced by powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms," according to a newly released study.
The study shows that these phenomena, also known as Alfven waves, accelerate electrons toward Earth, causing the particles to produce the light show we know as the northern lights.
This idea of electrons "surfing" on the electric field is a theory first introduced in 1946 by a Russian physicist, Lev Landau, that was named Landau damping. His theory has now been proven.
Scientists have understood for decades how the aurora most likely is created, but they have now been able to simulate it, for the first time, in a lab at the Large Plasma Device (LPD) in UCLA's Basic Plasma Science Facility.
Scientists used a 20-meter-long chamber to recreate Earth's magnetic field using the powerful magnetic field coils on UCLA's LPD. Inside the chamber, scientists generated a plasma like what exists in space near the Earth.