Northern Lights Science

Aurora Mystery Solved by “Surfing” Electrons

At the moment, scientists know a lot about what causes the Aurora, how it forms, what colors it can have, they know how to forecast the Northern Lights, and many, many other interesting and useful things about this beautiful phenomenon. But there are still a few questions which scientists are trying to answer.

One of these questions found an answer very recently (on June 7, 2021), thanks to the work of physicists from UCLA, Wheaton College, the University of Iowa and the Space Science Institute!

What is the Aurora?

The temperature in the Sun’s core is huge (like millions of degrees Celsius). At this temperature, a nuclear fusion reaction of hydrogen occurs. As a result, electrically charged particles (electrons and protons) are thrown out from the Sun’s atmosphere and they escape into space and, at some point, they reach Earth and they interact with Earth’s magnetic field (called magnetosphere), creating a so-called disturbance in the magnetosphere. The electrons from the solar wind then accelerate along the magnetic field lines and then collide with the gases that make up Earth’s atmosphere (mostly oxygen and nitrogen). These collisions determine the emission of visible light. It is this visible light what we call the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights.

Mystery solved

The mystery – until a few days ago – was that it was not well understood how the acceleration of electrons along the magnetic field lines occurs.

But the mystery is now solved! After creating, with the help of special scientific equipment, the same conditions just like those in Earth’s magnetosphere, the research team concluded that the acceleration happens due to the fact that the electrons “surf” along the electric field of a wave (in this case a so-called Alfvén wave, see what this is below), which transfers the energy of the wave to the accelerated particles, through a process called Landau damping.

Put it simply and without fancy words, as one of the researchers that took part in this study said, “measurements revealed (that the) electrons undergo (…) acceleration by the Alfvén wave’s electric field, similar to a surfer catching a wave and being continually accelerated as the surfer moves along with the wave”.

Alfvén waves are launched along the magnetic field lines, towards our planet, at the moment of magnetic reconnection, which is a violent process when two magnetic field lines couple together (which happens during a geomagnetic storm for example). Electrons from the solar wind, which are ‘trapped’ in the magnetic field line, “surf” along the field line, being accelerated by this Alfvén wave.

The science behind the Aurora

In this article is presented only a very small part of the Aurora science.

Now you have the chance to completely understand this magnificent phenomenon, starting from beginner level! I designed for Aurora Labs the Learn the Aurora workshop (either the online version, or the workshop we can do together here in Vadsø) where you can learn, through simple experiments and explanations (suitable even for the non-scientists!), the complete science behind the Northern Lights!

So, be sure to take part in my online workshop now, during summer, and be prepared to see (and understand) this beautiful phenomenon next winter!

…Oh, and did you know Aurora Labs can even certify you as an expert in Northern Lights? 😉

Aurora Labs Northern Lights

Happy Easter! 🐰

Wishing you an amazing Easter from the amazing Land of the Northern Lights! Happy Easter! 🐰🍀🥚🐣😊

Une magnifique Pâques du magnifique Pays des Aurores Boréales ! Joyeuses Pâques ! 🐰🍀🥚🐣😊


Aurora Labs Northern Lights

Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤💚

From the Land of the Northern Lights, Aurora Labs is wishing you lots of love, next to your Valentine! Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤️💚


En cette belle journée de Saint Valentin, Aurora Labs vous souhaite beaucoup d’amour du Pays des Aurores Boréales ! ❤️💚

Aurora Labs Northern Lights

Happy New Year! 🎆

Wishing you an amazing 2021 from the amazing Land of the Northern Lights! 😊🎆🎈🎀🎄🥂✨🎉🦌

Happy New Year! ✨🥂🎀🎈🎆

Northern Lights Vadsø

The Aurora is Back in Vadsø!

The last night of August was a special one! On the one hand – because it was the last night of summer, and on the other – because the Northern Lights chose to put on a great show in the night sky, here in Varanger!

If you’ve been following the Aurora Labs blog, you already know that the Aurora was up in the sky during the whole summer – it’s just that you couldn’t see it because of the Sun, which out-brightened the magical Light display. But the Northern Lights were there all right! You know that if you come to Vadsø any time during the year, you can listen to the Aurora, and thus experience it in an atypical way – and this, yes, even in summer!

But now nights start becoming darker and longer, and the Northern Lights will hopefully put up for us lots of magical shows up in the sky during the next few months! So why not come visit me here in Vadsø and hunt the beautiful Aurora with me? Or learn about it, from scratch, during my fun workshop (or take its online version, from the comfort of your own home!).

And remember, if you come visit me in Vadsø, there’s plenty to see and do here! Take a look at this article I wrote a while back and see for yourself the top 10 reasons why to come here! And do check out my article on how to prepare your next Northern Lights holiday – and why Vadsø is one of the best places to choose!

And do follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more updates and let’s say together “welcome back” to the beautiful Lady Aurora!