"Polarlicht 2" by Senior Airman Joshua Strang of the United States Air Force / Public Domain

Here’s Why Auroras on Earth Are Different in the North and South

Jan 28, 2019

By Meghan Bartels

Auroras paint the sky around the poles when the sun is particularly active, flinging highly charged particles at Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists once thought that the gorgeous events were mirror images, but to their surprise, displays at the north (the aurora borealis) and south (the aurora australis) don’t precisely match.

Ever since scientists realized these two celestial displays don’t line up, they’ve been trying to sort out why. Now, a team of researchers thinks it has found the reason — asymmetry in Earth’s magnetic tail. But what’s stranger is that the asymmetry is caused by the precise inverse of what scientists expected.

“The reason this is exciting is that earlier we have thought that the asymmetry in the system enters the magnetosphere by a mechanism called tail reconnection,” Anders Ohma, a doctoral candidate at the University of Bergen in Norway and lead author on the new study, said in a statement released by the journal. “What this paper shows is that it’s possible that it is actually the opposite.”

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One comment on “Here’s Why Auroras on Earth Are Different in the North and South”

  •  the asymmetry in the system enters the magnetosphere by a mechanism called tail reconnection

    Surely it would be easier to say that it’s just god in a playful mood, creating something pretty to delight his children?  ‘Twould save a lot of mental effort, research, thought and vocabulary, wouldn’t it?


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