Images: NASA looks back on 2008
Researchers using NASA satellites believe they solved the mystery of the Northern Lights this year. Data from five THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) satellites indicate that the phenomenon is caused an explosion of magnetic energy a third of the way to the moon. The key to the aurora borealis, NASA says, is magnetic reconnection, or "stressed magnetic field lines that suddenly snap to a new shape, like a rubber band that's been stretched too far." This causes a burst of light and movement near the northern and southern poles.
This artist's concept shows the explosion of energy responsible for sudden increases in the brightness and movement of the Northern Lights.
December 19, 2008 3:57 PM PST
Photo by: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
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