Saturday, November 19, 2005

Aurora borealis in central Nebraska.

I've never seen the Northern Lights. That's still a goal. It's an interesting phenomenon. High-energy particles that make up the solar wind are captured by the Earth's magnetic field at the poles, and travel down the field along lines of magnetic force. The ions collide with atmospheric gases and produce a glow. Before the science was sorted out, folkloric explanations included fires started by foxes, an earth-heaven bridge for gods, or a game of football played with a walrus skull.

Because the Earth's magnetic field is a polar phenomenon, you generally need to be pretty far north (or south) to see an aurora. Last May, however, a photographer in Blair, Nebraska shot some amazing pictures of the lights from a rooftop. Blair is about 30 miles north of Omaha, halfway to Tekamah. It's further south than Chicago, and much further south than Boston.


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