Researchers have developed the next best thing for would-be aurora gazers unable to make the trip to a near-polar location -- an aurora generator. The device was developed by Professor Shigeyuki Minami from the Graduate School of Engineering at Osaka City University, who worked with real estate developer Iida Sangyo Co., Ltd.
Beginning August 1, Iida Sangyo plans to fire up the device as the main attraction at its Enoshima Island Spa ("Enospa"), affording visitors the extra luxury of gazing at the aurora while lounging poolside on the second floor.
The aurora is generated within the belly of the machine, where a near-vacuum state is maintained. Electrons collide with oxygen and nitrogen to create colorful light in the same way that naturally occurring auroral light is generated in the earth’s upper atmosphere. One side of the device is made of transparent acrylic resin, allowing viewers to admire the beauty of the artificial aurora contained within. The aurora generator measures 2.2 (H) x 2.8 (W) x 1.4 (D) meters (7 x 9 x 5 feet), though the company claims to have engineered prototypes as large as 3 x 3 meters.
Aurora simulators in the past have relied on techniques such as laser beams that create aurora-like effects, while devices that have relied on electrical discharge in a vacuum have been very small. In addition to being larger and more "real" than previous devices, Iida Sangyo's device does not simply light up -- it emits a shimmering curtain of dynamic multi-hued light consisting of as many as 11 colors.
The company has not revealed exactly what technology is at work in the device.