Did You Know: Auroras and Earth's Magnetic Field

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Did you know that Earth is a giant magnet?

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/).
Story adapted from Image of the Day post by D. Kring, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Universities Space Research Association; Michael Trenchard, Barrios Technology, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC; and M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/88519/aurora-and-manicouagan-crater
  • Illustration of Earth's magnetic field: STScI
  • Illustration of Solar wind and radiation interacting with Earth’s magnetic field: STScI
  • Image of Aurora over northeastern Canada, February 2012: Expedition 30 Crew, International Space Station
  • Image of Aurora over the Southern Indian Ocean, May 2010: Expedition 23 Crew, International Space Station
  • Image of Aurora over Antarctica, September 2005: Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration satellite
  • Written by Margaret Carruthers

Text, Did you know? Auroras and Earth's magnetic field.
Earth is a giant magnet. Image of the Earth in space with South magnetic pole and north geographic pole labeled at top and south genographic pole and north magnetic pole labeled at bottom. North magnetic pole is written in red. Arrows point along arcs in concentric circles from the poles on the bottom to the poles on the top. Caption, Earth's magnetic field, artist's illustration, S.T.Sci. Text, Earth has a magnetic field that is similar to that of a bar magnet. Earth's magnetic field affects things like compass needles and iron-rich minerals on Earth's surface. It also affects the solar wind, streams of charged particles traveling through space from the Sun. Artist's illustration of the solar wind, emanating from the orange sun at left, interacting with Earth's magnetic field, indicated in blue emanating from Earth at right. Text, When these charged particles get close to Earth, the magnetic field pulls them toward the poles. They speed through Earth's atmosphere, colliding with oxygen atoms and nitrogen molecules.
The result is the glowing aurora, shimmering sheets of color that dance across the night sky near the poles. Image of green aurora lights over northeastern Canada, February 2012, by Expedition 30 Crew, International Space Station. Image of the bright green aurora over the Southern Indian Ocean, May 2010, by Expedition 23 Crew, International Space Station. Animation of shimmering green aurora over Antarctica, September 2005, by Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration satellite.