British Columbia·Video

Where do the northern lights come from?

The beautiful dancing lights of the aurora borealis are often seen across Canadian skies. But where do they come from?

Johanna Wagstaffe answers your questions in new weekly video column Science Smart

Where do northern lights come from?

9 years ago
Duration 2:23
Particles from the sun interacting with Earth's magnetic field

The beautiful dancing lights of the aurora borealis are often seen across Canadian skies. But where do they come from? 

In short, the northern lights are a result of charged particles from the sun interacting with the Earth's magnetic field.

As particles from the solar wind follow the lines of our protective field down to the poles of our planet, they collide with the individual atoms of our atmosphere to produce the spectacular light show.

For more information on the best times to look up and catch the northern lights, check out Canada's Space Weather forecast service online.

If you have a science question you'd like answered, send Johanna Wagstaffe a tweet (@Jwagstaffe) or an email:


Johanna Wagstaffe

Senior Meteorologist

Johanna Wagstaffe is a senior meteorologist for CBC, covering weather and science stories, with a background in seismology and earth science. Her weekly segment, Science Smart, answers viewers' science-related questions.


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