Glow up

5 breathtaking photos of mysterious "auroral beads"

Shutterstock

Ribbons of dazzling greens, purples, and blues that light up the night sky at Earth’s poles have captivated humans for centuries.

Shutterstock

Before we understood what caused the aurora borealis (or aurora australis in the Southern Hemisphere) indigenous peoples believed them to be spirits of departed loved ones (or future children), or of animals they hunted, or omens of good fortune.

Now we know that the aurora forms when solar wind collides with Earth’s atmosphere. The various colors of aurora result from plasma colliding with different atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, like oxygen or nitrogen.

ESA/NASA

A unique type of aurora called “auroral beads” is caused by turbulence in the solar wind, scientists just reported in a new paper. Here are 5 incredible images of auroral beads.

Auroral beads over Saskatoon in winter 2015.

Alan Duffy

Auroral beads seen from the International Space Station.

NASA

More auroral beads from Earth.

Michal Vrba/Unsplashed

These auroral beads appeared over Norway in December 2018.

Deniz/Unsplashed

Auroral beads from Earth.

Vincent Guth/Unsplashed

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