Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Holly . Holly Wonders, “What are the northern lights?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Holly !

Scientists call a natural light display in the sky an aurora. Though they can occur anywhere, auroras can be seen most often near the North and South Poles.

When an aurora occurs in the Northern Hemisphere, we call it Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. When an aurora occurs in the Southern Hemisphere, we call it Aurora Australis.

Auroras usually appear as beautiful, wispy colors waving around in the night sky. Some people compare auroras to huge curtains of light blowing in the breeze. Usually blue or green in color, auroras can also appear red, brown, or purple.

Throughout history, many legends and myths have developed around auroras. Ancient people in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland believed auroras were fire torches lighting the path to heaven for spirits. Aboriginal Australians believed auroras were gods dancing.

To find out the real truth behind auroras, we must turn to science. Even though you cannot feel it, a magnetic blanket — called a magnetic field — covers Earth.

The Sun emits a stream of gas called a solar wind, which is full of tiny particles called protons and electrons. When a solar wind reaches Earth's magnetic field, some of it passes through to our atmosphere.

As the protons and electrons in the solar wind collide with gases and particles in Earth's atmosphere, they begin to glow, producing the beautiful colors we see during the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis.

Wonder What's Next?

Will it be six more weeks of winter or an early spring? Find out tomorrow in Wonderopolis!