When the northern lights dances on a black and blue winter sky in the polar regions – it is a breathtaking sight. Although we now know pretty much about the northern lights, there are still aspects of this natural phenomenon that has no explanation.
In the early days one had to observe the northern lights from below. Now we can see the northern lights from above with the help of satellites that orbit the Earth, and thanks to the missiles from ARS, one can make both measurements and observations in the middle of the northern lights – 100 km out in space.
In the really old days there was much mystery and many legends about the northern lights. Then as now people saw this fascinating phenomenon in the sky, but they did not know what it was. Hence arose many different stories about the northern lights.
Back then people saw the northern lights as a warning of punishment or a reminder of how to behave, or that it predicted war and pestilence. Some believe even that it was old unmarried women who made the northern lights after they were dead. Some stories is that the northern lights came and took you if you waved a white handkerchief – then you teased the north light so that it got angry. Another version of this story says that if you wave a white handkerchief to the northern lights, then it is waving back to you.
The sami people said that the northern lights had a supernatural power, and symbols from the northern lights are on their drums. The sami people called the northern lights for “guovssahas”, the audible light. Nature people believed that the strong lights could be heard, as the crackling of paper, a flag flapping in the wind or the sound of a waterfall. They believed it until recently in fact.
We know what makes the northern lights. It is in fact the sun. The most important thing is that the sun emits light and heat and is therefore the basis for all life on earth. It is blowing winds on earth and it blows winds on the sun. They are called solar winds. Solar winds emit particles that are electrically charged. These is electrons and ions. Some of these particles are sent toward earth, and collide with gases in earth’s atmosphere. It is these collisions that cause the northern lights. The light can have many different colors, including yellow, green, red and blue. Different gases create different colors.
This is a picture of the solar wind that hits the magnetic field of the earth. Electrically charged particles flowing from the sun with very high speed. The particles are being trapped by this magnetic field that we see in the picture above. Then they are dragged down to the electric power charged poles. The particles are slowed down in the atmosphere of the earth, and the northern lights occur when they collide with molecules in the atmosphere.In the end, it is all about energy.
It may look like the northern lights are not high in the atmosphere when we look at it, but the fact is it is between 90 – 150 km above the earth’s surface. This is called the “visual appearance Northern Lights”.
You can`t see the northern light all over the world. In my country you can see it very clear in winter time. Especially in the north of the country.
Next to the north pole is another pole – the magnetic north pole. This pole attracts the electrons from the sun, to form the Northern Lights, which adds an oval ring around the magnetic pole. This ring is called the auroral oval. The areas beneath the ring can see the northern lights when it is dark and clear weather. Exactly the same happens in the southern hemisphere – where it is called the Southern Lights.
The first time we know for sure that someone saw the northern lights here in my country was back in the 1200 century. In the book “Kongespeilet(King’s Mirror)” which was written at the time, tells a lot about the northern lights. Approx. 400 years later, in 1621, a Frenchman invented a fancy name for the northern lights – Aurora Borealis. It means “northern dawn”. This name is actually wrong, but so far south in Europe as in France, red northern lights may look like the dawn. Southern Lights is called Aurora Australis, meaning “southern dawn”.
Here are a couple of images of the northern light.
I did make an earlier post about Aurora Borealis with a video and music. Click here.