Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The sun's got spots!

I've been reading up on the Northern Lights and this is a really good time to go to see them. The sun operates in a 12 year cycle and every 12th year it gets spots. These sunspots are visible without a telescope (though eclipse type glasses are recommended to avoid damaging your eyes) and are caused by particles being expelled from the sun. It's particles from the sun that cause the effects seen as the Northern Lights. The particles are dragged towards the two magnetic poles and then swirl around in the atmosphere causing the multi-coloured lightshow effect. The closer to the poles you are the more strobe like are the lights. In Scotland, on the odd occasion that they are seen, they tend to appear only as a pale swathe of colour on the horizon. Green and red coloured lights are caused by oxygen particles and the less common blue lights are caused by nitrogen.

Not only is sun at the height of its 12 year expulsion cycle, but some experts reckon it is the most active its been for 50 years. So with all these extra particles floating about surely I've got to see them! 

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