“Aurora Height Chart”

© 2008

Often someone watching a nice auroral display will comment that they “saw the aurora come all the way to the ground”. It is a common illusion due to the actual height of auroras and the curvature of the Earth combined causing the displays to appear to dance on the ground at the horizon. Also snow is the highest reflective surface on Earth and will become the color of auroras, appearing to move and dance below you as bright auroras throw light and shadows around. Science has shown us that auroral displays are way up at the edge of space. Shuttle astronauts have shown us that auroras swirl over the top of our Earth, at Shuttle heights and above the edge of our atmosphere.

 

Meteors burn up just below auroral displays. Auroras begin, at their lower edge, at about 100 km/60 miles and stand tall at 300-400km/180-220 miles high. Depending on the power output of each display, huge auroras may reach heights from 500 km/300 miles to 800 km/480 miles, sometimes even higher. They are undeniably the greatest light show on Earth.

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