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This animation demonstrates very simply how different elements at different heights, let off energy that we see as different colors.
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Axis Tilt

Axis tilt occurs when a planet’s rotational axis is tilted relative to the plane of its revolution around a larger object. Put simply, that means that the “top” of the planet, as defined by its rotation, is tilted. If a planet is titled in our solar system that means that sometimes the top of the planet faces the Sun and sometimes it faces away as it revolves around the Sun.

The Earth is tilted by 23.5 degrees, which means that sometimes the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun and sometimes it is tilted away from the Sun. This tilt of a planet is what gives us seasons.

Not all the planets have the same amount of tilt. Jupiter, for instance, has almost no tilt (3 degrees), while Venus has almost 180 degrees of tilt, which means that it’s spinning upside-down (at least relative to our definition of up). Uranus has a tilt of almost 90 degrees, which means that this planet is spinning on its side!

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Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

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Climate Change

Climate change refers to changes in global or regional climate determined over a long term - typically a minimum of 30 years. Individual short-term weather events such as an intense storm or heat wave...more

AU

AU stands for Astronomical Units. Distances in space are too large to measure in Earth standards like miles or kilometers. For distances too large to measue in AU, we use light years. A light year is the...more

The Spiral of the IMF

The solar wind is formed as the Sun's topmost layer blows off into space carrying with it magnetic fields still attached to the Sun. Gusts and disturbances form in the solar wind associated with violent...more

Spiral Path of Material

For a planet to be affected by a blob of material being ejected by the sun, the planet must be in the path of the blob, as shown in this picture. The Earth and its magnetosphere are shown in the bottom...more

The SAR Arc

The aurora we are most familiar with is the polar aurora. This is what people are referring to when they speak of the northern or southern lights. But there are other less-known auroral activity, such...more

The Effect of Aurora on the Atmosphere

This figure shows the effect of the aurora on the atmosphere. When FAC's enter the atmosphere and create the aurora, they warm the atmosphere impulsively. This impulse travels throughout the atmosphere...more

The forming Aurora

This picture illustrates the streaming of particles into and out of the auroral zone, as Field-aligned currents (FAC's) short-circuit through the ionosphere. Some of the particles entering the auroral...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF