Why are auroras different colors?

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Last week, a huge solar flare sent a wave of energetic particles from the Sun surging out through space. Over the weekend, the wave reached Earth, and people around the world enjoyed the sight of unusually vivid aurora in both hemispheres.

While the aurora is normally only visible close to the poles, this weekend it was spotted as far south as Hawaii in the northern hemisphere, and as far north as Mackay in the south.

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