If you find yourself in the right place at the right time on our planet, you might be able to look up in the sky and see a brilliant display of colorful, saturated lights. If you’re near the northern tip of Earth, what you’re seeing is aurora borealis (aka the northern lights). If you’re more on the opposite side of this giant sphere we call home, you’re seeing aurora australis (the southern lights). It’s amazing the things that our planet can do, but actually, auroras aren’t a uniquely Earth phenomenon. Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn all experience auroras as well, and NASA has recently released an animation of what the latter planet’s northern aurora looks like (via BoingBoing).
NASA notes that “the variability of the auroras is influenced by both the solar wind and the rapid rotation of Saturn,” but perhaps you’re asking yourself a more basic question: How do auroras even work? To put it simply, it goes like this: The Sun is pretty darn hot, and as it burns and bubbles and whatnot, it sometimes creates solar winds, made of plasma particles, into space. When these particles enter Earth’s atmosphere, they hit atoms’ electrons in the atmosphere, which brings them into a high-energy state. As these electrons re-enter a lower-energy state, they release photons of light, the light that makes up the auroras you’re lucky enough to get a look at sometimes.
What planet do you think would have the coolest-looking auroras? Let us know what you think down in the comments!
Featured image: NASA