Man-made aurora

9 Jun 2010

At June 9th ... our understanding of terrestrial space weather has been partly based on incorrect assumptions on how nitrogen in the atmosphere reacts when it collides with electrons produced by energetic ultraviolet sunlight and the solar wind. NASA fired electrons of differing energies through a cloud of nitrogen gas in order to measure the ultraviolet light emitted as a result of the collision. The idea is to try and understand space weather - when flares from the sun reach the atmosphere of the earth. The research will also help understand the aurora which are caused by collisions involving solar wind particles exciting terrestrial oxygen and nitrogen particles at the north and south poles. It is also hoped the research wil help understand what is happening on Titan, a moon of Saturn.