The first part of Brekke’s presentation revolved around the early pioneers of Aurora Borealis science. He discussed early methods of studying the Aurora, as well as stunning achievements in the field. In the late 1920s, one of the pioneers, Carl Størmer (1874-1957), determined that the Aurora was as much as 100 kilometers above ground.
Another interesting Norwegian scientist Brekke mentioned was Kristian Birkeland, the person who first articulated the nature of the Aurora Borealis. Birkeland is featured on the Norwegian 200 kroner bill. Showing a full-scale picture of the bill, Brekke explained to the audience all the space science featured on the bill itself. He even showed the bill’s hidden message: a comet only visible with the help of a black light.
To understand the Aurora, one must first understand the science of the sun, and as Brekke first and foremost is a solar physicist, the sun was a topic he covered in great detail. To put it simply, the activity of the Aurora is determined by the activity of the sun. The Aurora you see in the night sky actually consists of sun particles that have crashed into the earth’s magnetic fields.These collisions cause the atoms in the atmosphere to "glow", causing the night sky to light up in the northern- and southernmost parts of the planet.The speed of the solar particles entering the polar regions of the Earth will determine what colors we will see.
With great enthusiasm and the use of vivid graphics and amazing close-up photos of the sun and the Aurora, Brekke captivated his audience and explained complicated science in a fun, easy and interesting way.
The presentation included spectacular images and movies from the new NASA spacecraft Solar Dynamics Observatory as well as mind-bending videos of the Northern Lights.
Brekke recommends that anyone interested in seeing the Aurora in person try to see it during the next four years.He thinks that this four-year window will see the most spectacular displays for maybe decades.
There are several websites and apps where one can monitor the Aurora forecast. Brekke also showed clips from his own documentary, “Hunting the Light,” that show how to get the best photos of the magnificent Aurora.
Once the presentation was over, the floor opened for questions. There were many curious people wondering about everything from the Aurora science, to where one should travel to get the best view, and even to how to spell Bodø.
It was a very successful event and an interesting night for space science.
Film of the aurora Borealis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tf_vtaOV3A&context=C3b4d1a5ADOEgsToPDskLLa8zYGeRmZEWUfo62_7lc
Interview with Pål Brekke here http://www.springer.com/about+springer/media/pressreleases?SGWID=0-11002-6-1337821-0
For photos of the event http://www.flickr.com/photos/norwegian_embassy/sets/72157629438820003/