Aurora’s Magenta Majesty

Photograph by Zoltan Kenwell

The aurora borealis—or northern lights—appears as ribbons of purple and pink in a picture taken just north of Edmonton, Canada, on the night of April 2.

When the sun’s charged particles reach the atmosphere below about 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) from Earth’s surface, they mainly hit nitrogen molecules, which glow in rosy shades. More common green auroras are created by oxygen atoms between 60 and 120 miles (96.5 and 123 kilometers) above the ground.

No matter the colors, “everyone should see the Aurora Borealis at least once with their own eyes to really appreciate its splendor,” photographer Zoltan Kenwell said in an email to National Geographic News.



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