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Name: jan s belzer
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1993 - 1999

We are the fifth/sixth grade students at Pleasant Hill School in Palatine. We would like to know what causes the northern lights. We were reading a book called The Iceberg Hermit, and they discussed the northern lights. We looked up the definition on Information Finder but the explanation was so complicated we still didn't understand.

Please help! Thank You very much!

Hmmm. I'm not sure how to make the explanation simpler. The northern lights arise from particles very high above the earth - most of these particles actually come from the sun, and the northern lights are at their most spectacular when the sun has been very active, with lots of spots and flares. What happens when the particles come near the earth is that they get trapped by the earth's magnetic field - moving charged particles tend to travel along magnetic field lines. We know that the earth's magnetic field points north, right? So, these particles head north (well, some head south, but either way it's the same idea) and towards the northern part they start coming down towards the earth, where they run into the earth's atmosphere. The energy of these collisions is what you are seeing in the northern lights.

A Smith

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