The aurora borealis inspires awe in students and teachers alike. Often referred to as the northern lights, the aurora is a fascinating light phenomenon. The auroras are typically visible at higher latitudes, usually near the North Pole; however, strong, active auroras have been seen as far south as Mexico and Florida. The same phenomenon near the South Pole is referred to as aurora australis. The unusual and beautiful display of color and movement has inspired scientists and spectators for thousands of years. As a result, it is the perfect topic for a school project or a science fair entry.
Written Content and Research
Research the science behind the aurora borealis in order to provide a written report to accompany any experiment or display you will be submitting. Frequent your local library to delve into the impact chemistry has on the night sky. You could also work with your science teacher or visit a museum or planetarium to detail the way in which geomagnetic storms, electrical particles and gases impact our Earth’s atmosphere. Include detailed vocabulary lists or a glossary as a reference.
Geography and Maps
Submit a series of regional maps to inform your audience as to where and when the aurora borealis is visible. Spectators usually must travel to a high latitude in order to witness the aurora borealis. Discuss the impact of latitude upon the northern lights and then be sure to include maps to accompany the best viewing spots. A series of calendars that indicate the moon phases will enable your audience to determine the ideal time of month to view the phenomenon, since it's best seen at new moon, when the sky is darkest.
Photography and Visual Sources
Include photographs and other visual sources so that your audience can appreciate the beauty of the auroras. Photography is widely available online and at the library. Use pictures that capture the various colors. Chronological photos can capture the rapid movement of the lights. Diagrams of sun spots and solar flares will enable you to support the astronomical chemistry behind the auroras. If you have access to video equipment, show clips of the auroras in action.
Fun Facts, History and Connections
Providing fun facts about the auroras makes a project more interesting and relatable. Discuss the history surrounding the discovery of the lights thousands of years ago and the Roman mythology behind the name "aurora borealis." Show how the auroras and the phenomena behind them can impact satellites, GPS, power grids and compasses. Detail how the auroras work on similar principles to everyday objects such as neon lights and the television.
- SERG_AURORA/iStock/Getty Images