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Let's Harness that Power!

By studying the Northern Lights or "auroras", scientists can learn more about the solar wind, how it affects the Earth's atmosphere, and how the energy might be used for useful purposes.

The solar wind commonly generates billions of watts of electrical power in an auroral display. This can interfere with power lines, radio and television broadcasts, and satellite communications.

Polar-orbiting satellites can measure this electrical power, and a range from 4-900 billion watts of power has been recorded in the northern hemisphere alone. Double that for total world production as nearly identical aurora are occuring in the southern hemisphere.

Although this represents a huge amount of power, there is presently no known way to use this energy because it is spread over such a vast area. The actual power of a 1,000 billion watt storm might come down to less than a watt per 25 sq. feet / 65 sq. km. - not much compared to solar energy.

One scientist has compared using solar power to trying to harness the mechanical energy of a swarm of mosquitoes!

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Northern Lights SLIDE SHOW
Today's Auroral Activity

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