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Tactile image

Aurora formation

Although Earth is well protected by its magnetic field, not always it can deviate charged particles away.

Sometimes, especially particles with higher energies can protrude deeper into the magnetic field. And although they still move along the magnetic field lines, they end up entering the atmosphere in the polar regions, creating aurora, increasing radiation dose to aircrew and passengers, and causing disturbances in the ionosphere that make communication with aeroplanes and satellites difficult.

Here we use half of a polystyrene ball covered in blue crepe paper as Earth. Wires show the magnetic field lines. Notice how the shape differs: on the side closer to the Sun (in our case the left side), the magnetic field lines are squeezed towards Earth, while on the other side, farther from the Sun, they are prolonged.

The charged particles are represented by beads that flow along the magnetic field lines.


List of materials

The amount and sizes of the craft materials are approximate. You can use similar sizes and amounts – each tactile image is unique!

  • thick paper

  • scissors

  • a knife

  • pliers

  • ~8 mm wire

  • large beads

  • (blue) crepe paper

  • glue for crafting

  • (half of) a polystyrene ball

The image shows how aurora is created. Particles from the Sun, that are made out of beads, enter the magnetosphere, that is made out of wires. The bead are put on the wires so they can move towards the Earth and enter its atmosphere.


  • Cut the ball into two halves.

  • Glue a piece of crepe paper on one half of the polystyrene ball.

  • Take your pliers and wire, and cut it into 10 cm, 16 cm, 22 cm, 18 cm, 26 cm, and 34 cm long pieces.

  • Now, start to shape the wire into the shape of Earth's magnetic field lines. The lines closer to the Sun (on the left of our image) are squeezed towards Earth, while the lines on the other side are prolonged. This is due to the solar wind, which consists of charged particles.

  • We will use large beads, and to create contrast, we will use white, silver and black beads. You can, of course, use other colours.

  • Place the beads on a wire. Make sure there is enough space left for the beads to move.

  • Continue with the rest of the wires.

  • Take the wires and pierce them in the polystyrene hemisphere. Ensure the wires are inside deep enough, so they don't fall off. Also, make sure that the wires are in the same plane.

  • Once you are done, glue the hemisphere to the paper.

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