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Scientists Finally Solve Mystery Of Bright Nights

First Posted: Jun 26, 2017 05:01 AM EDT
Spectacular Perseid Meteor Shower Can Be Seen Across the Night Skies
A Perseid Meteor flashes across the night sky above Corfe Castle. (Image for representation only.)
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

They are not very common today, but there are such things called "bright nights" when even late at night, it is still bright enough to read a book. The unusual glow that appears in the sky after dark has been a question scientists longed to answer, and it seems that they have finally figured it out.

According to Deccan Chronicle, researchers initially suggested that when waves in the upper atmosphere converge on Earth, they can amplify a naturally occurring glow in the air -- usually green -- thanks to the movement of atoms of oxygen in the atmosphere. The airglow is not usually noticeable. But on bright nights, they are especially visible.

Researchers from York University in Canada matched the data collected regarding spikes in airglow light with atmospheric waves. Here, they found a link between the two. While it rarely occurs today due to prevalent light pollution, bright lights do exist. Airglow that comes from emissions of different light colors from chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere is usually the reason for these bright lights.

Upon identifying 11 events where WINDII data detected spikes in airglow, scientists were able to match up event of the ups and downs of zonal waves and large waves in the upper atmosphere. Science Alert noted that airglow is formed by different chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere. The green tinge in the air is seen when oxygen molecules that were split apart by the Sun join together once more.

Data collected by the researchers showed that bright nights occur once a year in places where they can be noticeable (i.e., those with no significant light pollution). However, it is important to note that bright nights should also be moonless nights, to be able to tell the difference.

How is this significant in science studies, though? Astronomers, in particular, will be interested in the research, as airglow or bright nights can interfere with their observations and readings regarding distant objects they are studying in space.

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