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The Science Behind The Northern Lights

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Uriel Sinai
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Getty Images

Last week was a great one for fans of the aurora borealis.  The Northern Lights were visible far further south than normal, thanks to increased solar activity. Ambient light made seeing them basically impossible in metro Milwaukee, but out in the country, there were lots of sightings.

So what’s responsible for the shimmering, colorful atmospheric magic?  Astronomy contributor and director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium at UW-Milwaukee, Jean Creighton, explained to Bonnie North exactly how they work - starting with two basic ingredients: the sun and the earth's atmosphere.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Dr. Jean Creighton has always been inspired by how the cosmos works. She was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up in Athens, Greece where her mother claims she showed a great interest in how stars form from the age of five.