Not an expert, hence the question. To my knowledge the magnetic field of the earth travels south to north. Wouldn't there be a bias on whether the charged particles causing the auroras are negatively or positively charged? If each pole attracts the opposite, how come they're the same?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about the tag. Concerning your question: I'm not entirely sure if you're asking that, but you are aware that magnetic poles and electric charges do not attract/repel each other? $\endgroup$ May 13, 2016 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ @ymb1 Aurora is a tag in Earth Science. Granted, it's a bit on the border between Earth science and Astronomy, but that's probably why it's not tag-able here. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    May 13, 2016 at 22:24

1 Answer 1


As most people are aware when they play with bar magnets, magnetic poles repel magnets of the same polarity and attract opposites. Magnets have two polarities: north and south.

Electric charges are classified as positive and negative, and also attract opposites and repel charges of the same sign.

However, magnetic poles and electric charges do not match up in the way your question suggests - it's not like North is positive and South is negative and they attract electric charges. Electric and magnetic fields are connected and interact (in fact, both are produced by moving electric charges) but the signs/polarity do not interact in the way you are imagining..

Aurorae (northern and southern lights) are produced because charged particles are streaming toward the Earth all the time in the solar wind. Charged particles (positive or negative) are blocked by magnetic fields - the easiest way to imagine this is to draw the Earth's magnetic field like a bar magnet and the charged particles cannot cross the field lines. At the poles the field is not parallel to the Earth's surface (blocking charged particles) but perpendicular to it, so the charged particles can move into the atmosphere without crossing magnetic field lines. In the atmosphere they interact with particles in the air and create the beautiful lights that we see.

So, in short, the lights are the same at the north and south poles because it is the same kind of particles interacting with out atmosphere.


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