For tourists headed to the arctic, the Aurora Borealis is on top of their bucket list.
For tourists headed to the arctic, the Aurora Borealis is on top of their bucket list. To the uninitiated, what exactly is Aurora Borealis? The Aurora is often referred to as polar lights, and can be found lighting up both the arctic and the antarctic skies. It is a natural light display mainly seen in high altitude regions. While the arctic lights are called the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis, the antarctic lights are called the Southern Lights or the Aurora Australis. While the name Aurora Australis is self explanatory, the name Aurora Borealis combines Aurora, who is the Roman goddess of dawn with the word Borealis, which is the Greek term for the north wind.
Compared to the northern lights, the southern lights aren’t as popular, reason being they can only be viewed from places, which don’t have much land mass, such as the South Georgia island, New Zealand, and the Falkland islands. Stunning to gaze at, these dramatic lights illuminate the sky when electrically charged particles from solar winds enter the Earth’s magnetosphere interacting with the gases there. When such collisions happen, the energy from the electrons in the solar winds is transferred to electrons in the atoms of the gases. This transfer excites the atoms and any excess energy is then released by these atoms in the form of light.
This interaction is continual so that the aurora displays can be static as well as dynamic, in that they can change colors and shapes, pulsating brilliantly in the skies. The color of the light emitted is determined by the kind of gas molecules, their electrical state when they are colliding, and the type of the solar wind particles they are colliding with. The light emitted by Oxygen atoms is yellow-green or red in color, while nitrogen atoms emit light that is blue or purplish-red in color. In fact, the gases mix and merge to create multicolored auroras. When the atomic Oxygen emits the light at a wavelength of 557.7 nm, the color turns green.
Though the polar lights are always there they aren’t always visible and will charm you on clear nights in places where the pollution does not affect visibility. It is better seen deep inside the countryside. Using a long exposure camera is recommended. While Tromso in Norway is the best place to view the lights, other places in Lapland, Canada, Scotland, Russia, and Alaska may be well worth a try. Generally, in the arctic, September to April is considered the peak viewing season.
The Aurora Borealis features prominently in Norse mythology. One legend lays down that the lights were reflections from the shields and armours of the Valkyrie. The Finns believed that the lights were caused by the firefox who ran across the snow at such quick speeds so as to cause sparks that flew into the night sky. To the Swedes, the arctic lights are a harbinger of good news. The North American Inuit call the auroras aqsarniit, meaning football players because they believe the lights resulted from spirits of the dead playing football with the head of a walrus, while the Iglulik people living north of the Hudson Bay in the Canadian northwest call the lights arsharneq or arshät and think that the lights are a manifestation of a powerful spirit who assists the shamans.
Now that you know about the Aurora you might like to plan your next trip to Norway, but until then, you can also bring home the Aurora Light Projector. It replicates the magnificent display of the Aurora to transform your ceiling into a magical wonderland. To know more, click here.