A photograph of the discrete aurora by John Russell in Nome, Alaska

  • Current Aurora Forecast
  • Solar Terrestrial Activity Report
  • Berkeley Space Weather Page
  • Tom's real time page
  • Dirk's real time page
  • spaceweather.com page
  • IMAGE satellite homepage
  • FAST satellite homepage

  • Aurora for beginners
  • Space Physics Education
  • .......

    A web course on the aurora

    "What is the aurora?" This is often the question I am asked after I tell someone that I study the aurora for a living. My first response to this question is: "Have you heard of the Northern Lights? Those lights are aurora." Most people have heard of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and are surprised to find out that there are also Southern lights (Aurora Australis). The aurora is a fascinating phenomena that is beautiful to watch dance in the high latitude skies. One can almost always see it from countries and states in the far North, such as Alaska and Finland, as well as the far south, such as Antarctica. Sometimes, on a clear night and when the aurora is very active, people at lower latitudes can see it. For example, people in the U.S. states of Washington, Colorado or Massachussetts have seen the aurora.

    Studying the aurora has taught us more about the plasma, electric and magnetic fields around earth and in our solar system. Because I want to share my knowledge about the aurora, I have decided to start a web page dedicated to it. This page is tailored mostly for people who do not study the aurora. You will learn some about the sun, the solar wind, the magnetosphere, parallel electric fields and much more! Because this page will be structured somewhat like a course at a high school with some university (undergraduate and graduate) level topics, some of the material mentioned later may be relevant to other space physicists. This will be an on-going project, so tune in any time!

    As you go through the lessons, write down questions you have. This will guide your learning about the aurora because your own curiosity will keep you reading! Hopefully I will anticipate questions you may have and they will be answered in following lessons. If you find that your questions aren't answered or addressed as you go along, email me and I'll try to include answers as part of a lesson. Thanks!

    Introduction to the Aurora (any level)

    Lesson 1:
      Start learning about the aurora by browsing web pages with photographs of the Northern and Southern Lights. You will learn about the different types of forms and features of the aurora, the visible colors it produces in the night sky, and where it is seen in the world. While you are looking at all the pictures of the aurora, write down some questions that come to mind. These questions will keep you interested in following lessons. This lesson is developed using Jan Curtis' aurora web page*

      Start lesson 1

    Lesson 2:
      Next, learn about the history and basic physics of the aurora, which includes learning about the sun, the solar wind, and the magnetosphere.

      Start lesson 2

    * "Aurora's Northern Lights"

    The Diffuse Aurora (advanced undergraduate, graduate, research level)

    If you are interested in doing homework sets that I've designed from papers on pitch-angle scattering by electron harmonic cyclotron waves, then come join us (J. W. Bonnell and myself) in learning more about the diffuse aurora!

    Come back next time for more web pages to visit and more information on the aurora!

    General Physics problems

    My friend, Matt Heavner, and I are doing general physics problems to keep our basic physics background up-to-date while we dive into our research topics. If you are interested in joining us, please visit our Physics Problem website.
    © Copyit, Referenceit 1998-2001 by Laura Peticolas.
    Last updated June 7, 2001

    Send e-mail to:lmp@ssl.berkeley.edu