what are the northern lights

Telegraph: The northern lights - Trip of a Lifetime. Oxygen at higher altitudes (about 200 miles above us) gives us ruby red auroras. The aurora has long been seen as a harbinger of doom, perhaps because of its red, bloodlike glow. The Vikings believed that the lights were the reflection of the shields and armour of the female warriors — also known as the Valkyrie — who were immortal, or that it was the Bifröst Bridge that led those who fell in battle to their final resting place in Valhalla. People in northern Sweden believed that the lights were created by huge shoals of herring - an impressive display meant fishermen expected a good haul. Many visitors hire a car for a night or two and drive out of Reykjavik into the wilderness. However, most of the particles leaking into the magnetosphere are trapped behind the Earth, and through processes analogous to convection end up flowing towards the Earth. (Wikimedia/public domain). The amount of energy leaking into the magnetosphere is regulated predominantly by the strength of the interplanetary magnetic field and its direction in relation to the Earth's magnetic field lines at the outer boundary of the magnetosphere. The lights were believed to be a celestial battle between good and evil dragons who breathed fire across the sky. Northern Lights can be seen in the northern or southern hemisphere, in an irregularly shaped oval centred over each magnetic pole. Over the course of human history, the aurora at its strongest has been seen all over the world, but these countries remain the best places to see the phenomenon. They are known as 'Aurora borealis' in the north and 'Aurora australis' in the south.. If you're lucky, the Northern Lights can suddenly brighten and appear to dance in spectacular style around the sky. In Norway, people submitted entirely to the lights. The fact that the aurora's appearance can change so much within the course of a single night makes it all the more mesmerising. But if you are booking travel, it’s important to understand that prediction remains close to impossible. Glacier Hike Guide Many Aboriginals and Native American tribes whistled to call the lights closer in order to whisper messages to their dead. Throughout history, humans in the wildernesses of the world, in the dark of night, have gazed up in wonder at the iridescent bands of green, red, yellow, pink, purple and white lights swirling around the sky. That said, the aurora has been observed as early as August and as late as April. The Northern Lights are the stunning beams of light that dance across the arctic skies in winter. Think of it this way: it's like the sun burping out these really small particles (the electrons) into the air. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, have captivated us over the centuries. He called it aurora for the Roman goddess of the dawn, and boreas, which is the Greek word for the north wind. Finally, in the 1600s, Galileo Galilei and Pierre Gassendi witnessed them in all their glory. Which makes sense, since the Finnish word for northern lights is revontulet — which literally means "fox fire"! Tips Amateur Meteorite Hunters Need to Know! Birkeland figured out that it was magnetic current flowing through the gases of the upper atmosphere that caused the aurora. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Centuries passed and the mysterious lights continued to be nameless. He was roughly right about the electricity bit, but it wasn't until Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland did a series of experiments in the early 1900s that a complete theory was developed. Why winter? Areas in the north, in smaller communities, tend to be best. Swirling patterns carved into cave walls over 30,000 years ago could be the earliest depiction of the phenomenon. Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colors. Learn how your comment data is processed. info@hiddeniceland.is, Our tours The auroral borealis in Estonia. Hidden Iceland But we now know that it's the result of high energy particles from space and the Sun slamming into the Earth's magnetic field. Of course, our relationship with the Northern Lights dates right back to the dawn of humankind, long before science explained them. The best time to view them is between midnight and 2 am. The northern lights — also called aurora borealis (say "ah-ROAR-ah bore-ee-AH-lis") — are coloured lights that appear in the northern sky. Because the phenomena occurs near the magnetic poles, northern lights have been seen as far south as New Orleans in the western hemisphere, while similar locations in the east never experience the mysterious lights. The Chinese saw serpents flickering in the skies, and Native American tribes attributed the lights to a range of things, including the spirits of dead hunters, a friendly giant catching fish in the sea, and fires lit by dwarves. There are many different folktales about the northern lights. Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colors. Southern auroras are not often seen as they are concentrated in a ring around Antarctica and the southern Indian Ocean. The Northern Lights can easily be seen from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and northern Russia. It ran so quickly across the snow that its tail made sparks fly into the night sky, creating the northern lights. When you're huddled in the snow, wrapped with blankets and waiting for your first glimpse, remember that it's this elusive quality that maintains the aurora's magic, and what makes a sighting so special. They are caused primarily by energized electrons (1-20 kilo-electron volts) which are accelerated towards the ionosphere from a region 5000-20 000 km above the Earth's surface. The hours of darkness increase the further north you travel, increasing your chances of catching a sighting. These tiny electrons mix with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, which makes them glow. The magnetosphere is broken near each pole by a cleft region. Willows know self defense + more cool tree facts, Gary and David Suzuki Learn How Fish Eat Trees. 'Aurora australis' means 'dawn of the south'. The weather conditions are vital. The magnetosphere is broken near each pole by a cleft region. In. If you could see the Northern Lights from space, it would sit below the North Pole like a halo around Earth, tracing a path across central Alaska and Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and northern Scandinavia and Russia. These collisions emit light that we perceive as the dancing lights of the north (and the south). (Photo via Visual Hunt), Gary and David Suzuki Learn About the Northern Lights. Scientists have long known that this energetic display is caused by sub-storms in space, but they haven't been sure of the trigger. Huffington Post: Iceland's Northern Lights, Demystified by Cynthia Ord, NASA: Aurora - Fabled glowing lights of the sun-earth connection. Throughout history, humans in the wildernesses of the world, in the dark of night, have gazed up in wonder at the iridescent bands of green, red, yellow, pink, purple and white lights swirling around the sky. The mysterious phenomenon often provoked fear. This energy is also dissipated through ohmic heating (ie, heat generated by electric current flow through a resistor). Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The Inuit imagined it as souls at play, using a walrus head as a ball. The lights are known as 'Aurora borealis' in the north and 'Aurora australis' in the south. But you probably don’t know what causes them. The name "aurora borealis" comes from the French astronomer and scientist Pierre Gassendi. Trips and tours abound, but Iceland is one of the best places for independent travel to the lights, where you won't be bound by an itinerary. In medieval times, the occurrences of auroral displays were seen as harbingers of war or famine. Very recently, a NASA mission discovered that magnetic field lines between Earth and the Sun sometimes merge and connect, releasing a burst of energy that fuels electrons in even faster waves towards Earth. Everyday Mysteries: What are the northern lights? The Inuit of Alaska believed that the lights were the spirits of the animals they hunted: the seals, salmon, deer and beluga whales. Auroras originate in the ionosphere, the upper atmosphere 100-300 km above the Earth's surface. Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, dynamic displays of multicoloured luminosity appearing in the day or night sky in high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. What are the Northern Lights? The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. One night it may be a milky green so pale and spread so thinly across the sky that it could be mistaken for clouds; the following night it could be red, violet, and bright enough to read by. The first written description of the aurora dates back to 2,600 BC in China: "Fu-Pao, the mother of the Yellow Empire Shuan-Yuan, saw strong lightning moving around the star Su, which belongs to the constellation of Bei-Dou, and the light illuminated the whole area.". An aurora (plural: auroras or aurorae), sometimes referred to as polar lights (aurora polaris), northern lights (aurora borealis), or southern lights (aurora australis), is a natural light display in the Earth's sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions (around the Arctic and Antarctic). Other legends spoke of the lights as a powerful spirit who assisted shamans; a torch-lit path to help souls along their journey; or the light from the fire built by the creator. Some of these particles are accelerated into the nightside ionosphere, causing brilliant auroras. In Finland, where the northern lights are very bright, their myth involves a sly little arctic fox. The Menominee Indians of Wisconsin believed that the lights indicated the location of manabai'wok (giants) who were the spirits of great hunters and fishermen. They dubbed the phenomenon aurora borealis, or northern dawn, after Aurora, the Roman goddess of morning and Boreas, the Greek name for the north wind.

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