Imaggeo on Mondays: Sky-high dancing lights

Sky high by Taro Nakai, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Sky high by Taro Nakai, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

This photo, taken in early 2011 at Murphy Dome, a mountain in Fairbanks North Star Borough in the US state of Alaska, shows a beautiful natural phenomena known as aurora.Auroras, also called northern lights in the Northern Hemisphere, are stunning light displays visible mainly at high latitudes. There, it is easier for energetic particles from the Earth’s magnetosphere and solar wind to follow the planet’s magnetic field lines and collide with atoms of gas in the atmosphere. These interactions release photons of different colours, depending on the gas the energetic particles interact with. The result? Awe-inspiring colourful curtains of light dancing in the skies.

The photographer, Taro Nakai, is a micrometeorologist at the International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks. He took this shot for a beautiful time-lapse movie, available from his YouTube channel.

“Murphy Dome has an elevation of 776 meters, and since it is located in a cold subarctic area, the top of this mountain is so-called alpine tundra. Therefore, there are no tall trees and we can see the unobstructed view of the spectacular northern lights,” said Nakai.

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Bárbara Ferreira was the Media and Communications Manager of the European Geosciences Union from 2011 to 2019. Bárbara has also worked as a science writer specialising in astrophysics and space sciences, producing articles for the European Space Agency and others on a freelance basis. She has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge.

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