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Passport to Knowledge: "Live From the Auroras" (2003)
November 27, 2007

Target: Grades 6-10

Length: 60 minutes

Internet: http://passporttoknowledge.com   →

As long ago as 2200 B.C., the ancient Chinese called them the "Candle Dragon." Alaskan Natives have stories about spirits in the sky, playing soccer with a walrus skull. In 2001, a contemporary dance group created a dance to celebrate them, using NASA's satellite images in a dramatic combination of art, science and culture. Auroras-the northern and southern lights-remain one of nature's most beautiful and mysterious phenomena. But, powered by the interaction of the solar wind with Earth's magnetosphere, they are also the most visible indication of our planet's close connection to our local star, the sun.

AURORAS-LIVING WITH A STAR is the first of two PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE specials exploring the Sun-Earth Connection, and what's beginning to be called "space weather." Using spectacular images from one of the world's only low-light TV cameras able to capture the aurora in real-time, and from NASA astronauts in orbit, AURORAS explains the physics and chemistry that create these "fires in the sky." NASA researchers travel high up in Arctic Canada, close to the North Magnetic Pole, showing how Earth behaves like a giant magnet. Spectacular animations show how storms on the sun affect life on Earth, including airline travel, power grids and even the daily operations of the U.S. Air Force. On location with researchers and engineers from NASA Wallops in Svalbard, Norway, we discover why sounding rockets have a place alongside satellites in studying the aurora. Viewers see how the colors and shapes of the aurora relate to core science concepts such as electricity and magnetism, light and optics, and the structure and composition of Earth's atmosphere.


This program was first broadcast on NASA TV Education File Schedule March 18, 2003.

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