Segments in this Video

Aurora Borealis (07:11)


The sun emits a steady stream of charged particles known as solar wind, a cosmic force sometimes intensified by solar flares. As charged particles stream along Earth's magnetic field towards the poles, they excite gasses that produce colored lights.

Solar Energy (02:59)

Increased solar activity associated with auroras can generate about one million megawatts of electricity. This energy can disrupt power lines, electronics, and more. The auroras are good measures of solar activity.

Shooting Stars (04:18)

What is a "shooting star?" It is a piece of space debris (rocks, dust, pebbles) shooting through Earth's atmosphere. These meteors originate from the formation of the solar system.

Cosmic Rays (04:30)

Cosmic rays are particles that come from space. They emit radiation, but Earth's atmosphere protects the planet from most of them. Cosmic rays can cause DNA mutations and affect certain weather phenomena.

Transient Luminous Events (03:25)

Large thunderstorms are capable of producing electrical phenomena called transient luminous events (TLEs). The most common TLEs include red sprites, blue jets, and elves.

Key Roles of the Sun on Earth (04:06)

The sun "tells" plants when to flower, and it initiates life-giving processes of photosynthesis. Plants provide much of the food humans consume, and they give off oxygen essential for life. The sun may help animals navigate on the planet.

Earth's Magnetic Field (04:28)

When conditions obscure the sun, some animals switch to Earth's magnetic field for directional and positional cues. Homing pigeons may first use the sun to orient themselves and then switch their sense of smell and the Earth's magnetic field.

Ultraviolet Rays (04:13)

There are three classifications of ultraviolet rays. UVA is known as the aging and skin-cancer ray; UVB is considered the burning ray. People who live in the sun and have light eyes and skin are most vulnerable to UVB rays.

Sunscreen Protection (01:46)

Regular sunscreen does not protect humans from skin cancer and premature aging. SPF only measures UVB protection, but not UVA. The most effective sunscreens protect against UVB and UVA.

Rainbows (05:33)

Rainbows form when sunlight passes through spherical droplets, bending the light as it passes through. This gives the different colors of rainbows. No two people see the exact same rainbow.

Credits: Cosmic Phenomena (00:39)

Credits: Cosmic Phenomena

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Cosmic Phenomena

Part of the Series : The Universe
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The Aurora Borealis and rainbows. UV radiation and cosmic rays. This program examine a variety of cosmic events that have both helped and harmed life on Earth. Distributed by A&E Television Networks. A part of the series The Universe. (45 minutes)

Length: 45 minutes

Item#: BVL43144

Copyright date: ©2009

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.