The Northern Lights are brilliant displays of flickering lights in the northernmost part of the sky, found primarily near the poles. They are caused by the radiation released from the sun. Colors include green, red, and sometimes even blue. Some say it resembles an apparition of a smoke plume, and others think it resembles fire cascading through the clouds.
It is also known as an Aurora Borealis, which means Dawn of the North. This refers to when it occurs at the North Pole, hence its name. It can be seen from from quite far away, spanning multiple hundreds of miles across. It is most strongly visible during nighttime, but they can happen at any time of the day.
What Causes the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are caused when the sun releases particles into the emptiness known as outer space. The particles which fly through space are known as solar wind. They are very electrically charged, producing much electricity. When this “solar wind” reaches Earth, or makes impact with its atmosphere, this can result in the aurora.
Earth has a magnetic field around it that protects it from radiation, which serves to essentially deflect solar winds. At the poles, the magnetic field is less powerful, meaning that it cannot properly protect the Earth, so the solar wind particles collide with the air in those areas. This releases the electricity in it, creating the light we see.
Legends Surrounding the Aurora Borealis
- During one of these displays, the Roman Emperor Tiberius immediately recognized the shimmering red in the aurora and thought that one of his cities was on fire. In an effort to extinguish it, he deployed several fire engines into the town. Only later did he discover the backdrop of the mysterious red aurora
- There is a collective or group living in Sweden, Finland and Norway, known as the Sami people, who believe that an aurora is a fox tail. The ethereal fox emerges at random, during a special event
- From Bulfinch’s Mythology, the Norsemen are said to have believed that an aurora was created from the shining armor of the Valkyries, which were the warrior maidens of the god Odin
- A certain Algonquin myth speaks of how Nanahbozho finishing the task of creating the Earth, where he traveled to the north and remained there, building large fires of which the Aurora Borealis is the reflection
You should see the Northern Lights if you get the chance. Find out the applicable Northern Lights destinations for your trip, and perhaps plan your travel around the event of one of the Northern Lights holidays. They really are quite stunning, filled with rich mythology. People always vie over Northern Lights photos.