Solar Storms and You!

Activity 11 : Auroras and Magnetic Storms


Auroras are produced in the north and south magnetic polar regions when energetic particles from the Sun, or other locations in the Earth's magnetic field, collide with atoms of oxygen, nitrogen or hydrogen in the atmosphere. A source of mystery for countless millennia, we now understand how they are produced, but can still admire them for their beauty. Scientists have studied them for over 100 years, and there are certain details about how aurora form and change with time that are the subject of new investigations from the ground, and from space.


Students will read an article to be informed about auroral activity, describe information given, and apply their understanding to create an auroral display.


"The Aurora: New Light on an Old Subject"
Student page questions and graph
Crayons, colored pencils, or markers


  1. Discuss the student's prior knowledge about aurora.
  2. Allow sufficient time for the students to read "The Aurora: New Light on an Old Subject".
  3. Students complete questions number 1 through 6. Encourage the students to refer to the article as needed. Discuss the student responses.
  4. Students can color the map according to their interpretation of the aurora.

Key Information

For images of the aurora, and more information on the appearance of the aurora, arrange for the class to use the computer center. Locate the following web site:

and follow the links to the page

"Space Science Resources"

and on this page, select the link to

"Aurora Resources".

There will be a list of links to other web sites that provide photographs, descriptions, folklore, and many more interesting facts!


Students will learn about the aurora phenomenon and how scientists have studied it over the last few centuries. They will learn how older ideas have been replaced by newer theories.

Related Web Resources

Visit the IMAGE/POETRY Aurora Resources Page to find more links to places that describe aurora, and forecast whether any will be visible in the next few days.

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This activity was developed by the NASA, IMAGE/POETRY 
Teacher and Student Consortium. 
For more information, and a list of other resources, visit 
the IMAGE/POETRYweb site.