What Are the Southern Lights?


Quick Answer

The southern lights, or the "aurora australis," are diffuse sheets of lights in the sky of the southern hemisphere. The aurora australis are the southern hemisphere’s counterpart to the northern lights, or aurora borealis, in the northern hemisphere.

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What Are the Southern Lights?
Credit: National Science Foundation/Chris Danals Flickr CC-BY-2.0

Full Answer

The southern and northern lights are both created due to minuscule collisions between electrons, protons and atoms in the upper layer of the atmosphere. These collisions create lights in the atmosphere. The colors of the lights are based on what type of atom is involved in the collisions. Oxygen atoms collide with other molecules to create green and red lights, while nitrogen atoms create blue and pink lights.

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