Why are the northern lights always the SAME GREEN colour?


Taylor Swift on her track “Snow on the Beach” claims she “searched aurora borealis green” – as an astrophysicist and Swiftie I’m here to let you know the aurora are green because of Oxygen in our atmosphere. To understand what the aurora are and why they’re always the same colour of green we need to delve into some solar physics, a bit of chemistry and some quantum mechanics!

Snow on the Beach by Taylor Swift (ft. Lana del Rey) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycE7b…

Richter et al. (2021; atomic oxygen abundance in the atmosphere) – https://www.nature.com/articles/s4324…
Bhardwaj & Raghuram (2012; atomic oxygen electron transitions) – https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10…

00:00 – Introduction
00:58 – The Sun burps up dangerous particles
02:31 – The Earth’s two layer protection
03:15 – Why the aurora are only near the poles
04:21 – The orbits of electrons
05:35 – An Oxygen atom
06:02 – Excited oxygen atoms = ionization
07:12 – Energy levels and wavelength of light
08:31 – Why it’s always the same colour of green
09:02 – What about the red light in the aurora?
09:51 – Why do the aurora stop with a “ceiling” at 100km?
11:54 – Aurora on Jupiter & Saturn
12:21 – Where should I go to see the aurora?
13:20 – Outro
13:37 – Brilliant
14:46 – Bloopers

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👩🏽‍💻 I’m Dr. Becky Smethurst, an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford (Christ Church). I love making videos about science with an unnatural level of enthusiasm. I like to focus on how we know things, not just what we know. And especially, the things we still don’t know. If you’ve ever wondered about something in space and couldn’t find an answer online – you can ask me! My day job is to do research into how supermassive black holes can affect the galaxies that they live in. In particular, I look at whether the energy output from the disk of material orbiting around a growing supermassive black hole can stop a galaxy from forming stars.


About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at http://www.sambaman.org.uk
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