Scientists think they have discovered the energy source of the spectacular color displays seen in the northern lights.
New data from NASA's Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, found the energy comes from a stream of charged particles from the sun flowing like a current through twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting Earth's upper atmosphere to the sun.
The energy is then abruptly released in the form of a shimmering display of lights visible in the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, said principal investigator Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Results were presented Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Los Angeles Times: