A brilliant display of bands or folds of variously colored light in the sky at night, especially in polar regions. Charged particles from the solar wind
are channeled through the Earth's magnetic field into the polar regions. There the particles collide with atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere, ionizing them and making them glow. Auroras are of greatest intensity and extent during periods of increased sunspot activity, when they often interfere with telecommunications on Earth.
♦ An aurora that occurs in southern latitudes is called an aurora australis
(ô-strāˈlĭs) or southern lights
. When it occurs in northern latitudes it is called an aurora borealis
(bôrˌē-ălˈĭs) or northern lights
. See also magnetic storm