Northern Lights

Faculty Investigates Mystery of Northern  Lights

Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Jim Schroeder (‘09) finds that electrons surfing across electromagnetic Alfvén waves is the force behind the awe-inspiring aurora borealis. Emily Bratcher describes the investigation and Dr. Jim Schroeder's research in her article,"Wheaton Professor Discovers the Force Behind the Northern Lights." Wheaton Record writer Abigail Aycock desribes how a decade of research led to explaining the connection between the  Aurora Borealis's electrons and electromagnetic waves in her article, "Wheaton Physics Prof Publishes Groundbreaking Research on Cause of Aurora Borealis."

The research was also described in an article by CNN. SEEKER produced a video and graphics description of the research,  and the University of Iowa has a summary of the research project. Dr. Schroeder, with a team of scientists, published a paper on the research in Nature Communications.
CNN: The mysterious origin of the northern lights has been proven
Video and graphics from SEEKER: Why Scientists Recreated the Northern Lights in a Lab
University of Iowa:A summary of the research is available here.

“Laboratory measurements of the physics of auroral electron acceleration by Alfvén waves” by J. W. R. Schroeder, G. G. Howes, C. A. Kletzing, F. Skiff, T. A. Carter, S. Vincena and S. Dorfman, 7 June 2021, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-23377-5