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Cycles and particles

Northern lights occur roughly every eleven years. Record-keeping of the sun's activity began in 1749. Since then, there have been 22 full cycles.

Particles ejected from the sun travel 93 million miles toward Earth before they are drawn toward the magnetic north and south poles. As the particles move through the Earth's magnetic shield, they mix with the oxygen, nitrogen, and other elements that result in the display of lights.

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The magnetic fields of the sun distort and twist as the Earth rotates on its axis. When these fields become knotted together, they create sunspots. Usually, these sunspots occur in pairs.

The best places to see the northern lights are Alaska and northern Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. During periods of particularly active solar flares, the lights can be seen in Scotland and northern England.

Auroras also occur on planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These gas giants have thick atmospheres and strong magnetic fields. These auroras are a little different from Earth's as they are formed under different conditions.

The colours of a aurora boralis are pink, green, yellow, blue, violet, and occasionally orange and white.

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