In the light of the aurora

Optical auroral research in northernmost Europe

image of In the light of the aurora

The aurora, or northern lights, is the most variable light phenomenon in the sky and the result of physical processes taking place in near-Earth space. The colours, shapes, intensities, locations and movements of auroral forms give us information about these processes. Ground-based optical studies are superior for high-resolution measurements and to distinguish temporal and spatial effects. Arctic Europe is a most convenient place to study the aurora. Many instruments and research facilities have been placed here. The Network for Groundbased Optical Auroral Research in the Arctic Region is supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers and consists of all research institutions in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and on theKola Peninsula active in optical auroral research. This reportintroduces optical aurora and optical research methods, research institutions and research infrastructure. It also describes the activities of the network: workshops, mobility programme and scientific results.



Optical aurora

The aurora is the most variable of all natural light phenomena in the sky. It can at times be almost as bright as the full moon, at other times hardly visible. It takes on many different shapes such as arcs, draperies, spirals, rays, patches and diffuse surfaces. The most common colour is yellowish green, but it also displays red, purple and other colours (Figure 2 and the cover picture). Sometimes auroral forms appear to stand still, but more often they move, frequently with amazing speeds. Auroral forms can appear and disappear or pulsate on and off.


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