Beautiful time-lapse video captures Aurora Borealis over the Rocky Mountains

The sun has been putting on some incredible displays lately, with powerful solar flares blasting immense coronal mass ejections into space. However, here on Earth, those explosions and eruptions are turned into haunting displays of beauty at the planet's polar regions and sometimes the stretch even further.

After some of the latest solar flares, Calgary photographer Richard Gottardo captured this time-lapse video of the Aurora Borealis over the Canadian Rockies:

According to Gottardo, the video is composed of around 1,500 individual pictures, covering roughly 7 hours of time, and was shot on November 9th, 2013. If you watch closely, right around 40 seconds into the video, you can see that he managed to snap pictures of two meteors as they streaked overhead.

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Auroras are caused when charged particles from the sun, either from the solar wind, or blown off the sun's surface in a coronal mass ejection, or both, encounter Earth's magnetic field. While many of them rebound off or flow around, some are trapped by the field and are funneled towards the poles, where the lines of the magnetic field are so close to the surface that the particles enter our atmosphere. The particles strike air molecules in our atmosphere, causing them to fluoresce, just like electricity lights up a neon light. The colour depends on what kind of molecules they hit — green for oxygen and blue or red for nitrogen — and combination of these can produce colours like pink and yellow, too.

With the sun so active now, since it's approaching the second peak of a twin-peak solar maximum, the auroras are reaching further from the poles, and so there's a better chance for more people to see them. A great place to check out forecasts of aurora activity (and other inner-solar system news) is on SpaceWeather.com.

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