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Aurora Borealis: Sun flares causing dancing lights in the northern hemisphere

A major solar eruption on the sun's surface on Jan. 7, 2014, reached Earth and activated the Aurora Borealis in the northern hemisphere and could be seen in areas near the north pole and as far south as Ohio. These bright dancing lights in the northern sky are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter our atmosphere.

A minor solar flare is expected to arrive on Jan. 12, 2014 and is an S1 level flare with S1 being minor compared to Tuesdays extreme S5 flare. These flares cause radiation hazards especially to astronauts and airline passengers on different levels and can disrupt high frequency radio waves disturbing radios and cell phones.

Sun flares can be risky but the aurora displays they create are the beautiful side of these events. Ohio has seen many aurora displays in recent years the last visible one happened on October 2011 and lasted around 20 minutes. Even folks in southern Ohio may be able to see the legendary lights if the night sky is clear. Rural areas that are free of ground lighting have a better chance of viewing the display of lights.

Northern Lights Centre explains a little more about these natural phenomenons, “Auroral displays appear in many colours although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.”

The color of the aurora depends on how far above the earth’s atmosphere is affected by the collision of gas molecules with oxygen and these collisions emit light that we perceive as the dancing lights of the north.