Aurora (from the Latin word aurora, “dawn”) is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere. Aurora is classified as diffuse or discrete aurora.
The effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas. Auroras seen near the magnetic pole may be high overhead, but from farther away, they illuminate the northern horizon as a greenish glow or sometimes a faint red, as if the Sun were rising from an unusual direction. Discrete aurorae often display magnetic field lines or curtain-like structures, and can change within seconds or glow unchanging for hours, most often in fluorescent green.
The Cree call this phenomenon the “Dance of the Spirits”. In Europe, in the Middle Ages, the auroras were commonly believed a sign from God. Aurora is visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. Aurorae occur on other planets. Similar to the Earth’s aurora, they are visible close to the planet’s magnetic poles. Modern style guides recommend that the names of meteorological phenomena, such as aurora borealis.
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