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On some nights in the far north, colorful lights fill the sky. These colors are known as the northern lights. The sun causes them. Storms on the sun’s surface send solar winds into space. Solar winds contain very tiny pieces of the material that forms the sun. When these pieces hit Earth’s atmosphere, gases in the atmosphere react. Those gases give off light. Different gases light up different colors.

Solar power plants use sunlight to produce electricity. The Ivanpah project is a solar thermal power plant in California. Its three tall towers are surrounded by 300,000 mirrors. The mirrors reflect sunlight toward the towers. This sunlight heats tanks of water in the towers. The water turns to steam. The steam runs engines that produce electricity. The three towers can make enough electricity for more than 100,000 homes.

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Making Connections

Text-to-Self

Have you seen sunlight dry something? What was it?

Text-to-Text

Have you read books about other energy sources? Were they renewable, like sunlight? Or could they be used up?

Text-to-World

Sunlight is a renewable resource. What other natural resources are renewable?

Teacher Resources

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