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The English version of our glossary is currently under construction and will be regularly updated.

Aurora australis / Aurora borealis

The Southern and Northern Lights.

The Aurora australis or Southern Lights are the counterpart to the Northern Lights in the Arctic, the Aurora borealis. At the North and South Pole, the magnetic field lines reach down to the Earth. At the poles, there are holes in the magnetosphere. The solar wind, which transports electrically charged particles, follows the field lines until it penetrates the atmosphere at the poles. Here, the particles come into contact with oxygen and nitrogen atoms, ionising them. This is soon followed by recombination, which emits light. Beyond the 60th parallel, this manifests in a variety of colours and forms – as flames, clouds, arcs, bands, etc. – which can rapidly change. The occurrence of polar lights is connected to the sunspot cycle and major fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic field.