Awesome aurora device replicates Northern Lights phenomenon

Leicester researchers will be creating Northern Lights for a studio audience using the University's Planeterrella during the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lecture on 30 December 2015.

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures are the UK’s flagship science series. This year the theme of the lectures is ‘How to Survive in Space’, celebrating the launch of the British Astronaut Tim Peake to the International Space Station.

As Tim flies over the Earth, he will have the opportunity to view the Earth’s Northern Lights from space.

The Northern Lights are created by charged particles from the Sun travelling along the Earth’s magnetic field lines and exciting our atmosphere. The University of Leicester’s Planeterrella, which was the first to be commissioned in the United Kingdom, creates Northern Lights within a vacuum chamber.

The experiment was originally devised by Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland over one hundred years ago to understand how the Northern Lights work.

Martin Barstow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Head of the College of Science and Engineering and Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science, will  be watching the launch of Tim Peake's Soyuz spacecraft live from mission control in Kazakhstan today. More information is available here.

Watch a video of the Planeterrella in action below: