If you need to see Nature at her best, you should think of Northern Lights. Spectacular and dazzling, the Northern Lights have a really difficult scientific name – Aurora Borealis. In this article titled 30 interesting Northern Lights facts, we are going to explore numerous things like their shape, the tales of legends and the true cause of such spectacular array of lights that humans have failed to replicate so far. So if you are ready, without further ado, let us begin our facts list. You are going to love these facts!
Interesting Norther Lights Facts: 1-10
1. Magical, dramatic, entrancing – the Northern Lights can be seen in several forms like shooting rays, curtains, arcs, streamers, scattered light clouds, light patches and more.
2. Two things are responsible for this dazzling display of lights – the charged particles shooting out of the sunspots that form on sun and the elemental molecules and atoms (such as nitrogen and oxygen molecules and atoms) that happily float around in Ionosphere and Exosphere of earth’s atmosphere.
3. What really happens is that during solar storms, the charged particles from sun are spewed out in form of plasma. Plasma can travel in any direction and can even head towards our earth. It takes about 40 hours and 93 million miles of travelling for the plasma winds to get close enough to earth’s magnetic fields that stretch out to thousands of kilometers in space.
4. Once the charged particles in the plasma are close enough to be incapable of resisting the gravitation tug of our planet, they simple come shooting towards earth and bombard with the molecules of various elements, resulting in the vivid display of the dazzling lights that have captured out attention of millennials.
5. This phenomenon is not just restricted to the Northern Hemisphere of our planet. These dazzling lights can be seen even in the Southern Hemisphere. The name for the southern counterpart is Aurora Australis.
6. The most common colors that we see in Northern Lights are violet, blue, yellow, green and pink with green being the commonest of all. Orange and white colors are also seen but they are rare occurrences.
7. The color that will show up actually depends on which elemental molecules or atoms the charged particles are colliding with. Green and yellow occurs when the charged particles from sun bombard with oxygen. Violet, red and blue are produced when the charged particles interact with nitrogen.
8. Again the colors will different depending on whether the charged particles are colliding with molecules or atoms. For instance, interactions between charged particles and molecular nitrogen leads to purple. Replace molecular nitrogen with atomic nitrogen and the resulting color is blue.
9. As we said earlier, for millennials humans have been fascinated by Northern Lights. One of the earliest records of the Aurora Borealis has been found in a cave in France which dates back to 30,000 years from now. The cave paintings have illustrations of this incredible natural phenomenon.
10. The name Aurora Borealis was coined by Galileo Galilei in 1619. The part Aurora is actually the name of the goddess of dawn in Roman Mythology. The part Borealis is actually name of northern winds in Greek.
Interesting Northern Lights Facts: 11-20
11. The Southern Lights or the Aurora Australis are as spectacular as the Northern Lights. However, since the appear at the South Pole of the planet, it is very tricky to see them as the South Pole is far more inhospitable than the North Pole.
12. The best places to see the Northern Lights are northern Canada and Alaska. The lights can also be seen from Finland, Sweden and Norway. They also become visible from top of Scotland if the solar flares are extremely active. Sometimes, depending on how active the solar flares are, these lights can be seen from as far south as northern England.
13. Though the Northern Lights are always present, the best time of the year to see these lights is winter. Factors like low pollution, crisp and clear air increase the visibility of the lights significantly. In case you want the exact months, eye for March, April, September and October.
14. The most spectacular shows that was ever put up by the Northern Lights were during the great geomagnetic storms of 1859 that took place on August 28 and September 2. In case a solar storm of the magnitude of what occurred in 1859 happens today, the modern civilization will have to face some serious consequences.
15. The altitude of the Northern Lights is same as the altitude of the International Space Station. This is why the astronomers who are on board can actually see the lights from side.
16. If you want to get a particularly great view of the Northern Lights, head for the town named Yellowknife in Northwest Territories, Canada. In case you are located in Europe, head for Tromso in Northern Norway.
17. As expected, there are many legends associated with the Aurora Borealis. Some Inuit Tribes of North America call the Northern Lights as Aqsarniit. The term literally translates into Football Players. The reason for such weird name is that the Inuit people think of the lights as spirits of dead people playing football using a walrus head.
18. The best time for watching the Northern Lights is during the magnetic midnight. This is the moment when the magnetic pole of our planet lies right between the sun and the observer of the lights. This is when the auroral arcs reach close to the equator.
19. Through the course of time, several explanations have been put forward for the Northern Lights. Some of the most famous people who attempted to explain the lights include Descartes, Seneca, Aristotle and Benjamin Franklin. According to them, the lights are a result of electrical charges concentrated in polar regions and that the moisture and snow intensified the concentration of the charges.
20. Venus which has no magnetic field has also displayed a phenomenon similar to the Northern Lights. According to scientists, the light or the aurora-like phenomenon of Venus is caused by interactions between ionosphere of the planet and solar winds.
Interesting Northern Lights Facts: 21-30
21. The more far north you travel, the chances of observing the Northern Lights increase. Thus, if you head for the Arctic, you can actually see the Northern Lights even when it is afternoon. However, if you don’t go as far as the Arctic, the Northern Lights are visible only during night time despite the fact that they can happen just anytime during the whole day.
22. No one has ever spotted two Northern Lights that are identical. All Northern Lights always have different pattern and also different colors.
23. The Northern Lights may appear to be just above our head but they, they are at incredible heights. The minimum height is usually 60 miles above the earth’s surface while the beautiful red lights are at highest altitude of 400 miles above earth’s surface.
24. Yet another one of the interesting Norther Lights facts is that pure blue is the rarest color to be seen in Northern Lights while green is the commonest. Here is the list of colors in order of common to rare to rarest:
- Red and Green mixture
- Pure Red
- Pure Blue
- Orange and White (extremely rare, even rarer than pure blue)
26. While some Inuit people believed the Northern Lights to be football players, other Inuit tribes considered the lights as spirits of beluga whales, deer, salmons, seals and other animals they hunted for survival.
27. While the auroras put up a spectacular light show, they are also associated with sounds which are often described as clapping sounds. Some describe the sounds as static sounds or crackles. Listening to aurora sounds is extremely difficult and can be usually heard during high solar activities. Also windless nights are perfect but the observer needs to be far away from other sound sources.
28. The Northern Lights and even the Southern Lights look like fire. However, if you manage to stand right in the middle of an aurora, it will not feel like fire. The air density at 60 miles and above the earth’s surface is so thin that thermometers will actually register temperatures below zero.
29. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA keep a tab on the solar activities and announce the possible dates and locations for Northern Lights display. You can always follow them if you are willing to witness spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis.
30. One of the most interesting of Northern Lights facts is that the lights can actually appear as static light bands or they may look like dancing curtains. What you get to see will depend on the intensity of the solar activities.