Unravelling the mysterious beauty of the Northern Lights

Posted by fi17 at Oct 24, 2011 12:45 PM |
Professor Steve Milan's inaugural lecture will examine the battle between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field

They may look delicately pretty, but the Northern Lights are in fact a result of violent collisions in the upper atmosphere between charged particles and magnetic fields. In his inaugural professorial lecture, Prof Milan of our Department of Physics and Astronomy will explore the Sun's role in our space weather - and its effect on vital satellite technology.

Professor Milan will describe how the solar wind - a stream of charged particles ejected by the Sun - interacts with the Earth's own magnetic field to produce the Northern Lights and other related phenomena. Interactions between the solar wind and the atmosphere are usually invisible, and the Northern Lights represent a rare glimpse at a hidden world of twisting magnetic fields and explosive substorms.

As mankind relies more and more on space-borne technology such as satellites, understanding these mysterious and violent reactions will become ever more important.

Professor Milan's lecture 'Sun et Lumière: solar control of the Northern Lights' is free and open to the public, and will take place on Tuesday 25 October at 5.30pm in Lecture Theatre 1, Ken Edwards Building. To book a place, contact inaugural@le.ac.uk.