February 05, 2021
The Aurora Borealis has been enchanting mankind for centuries and we know the Aurora chasers out there will already be well versed in the exact science, the latest prediction apps, and the best conditions to look for but did you know you're not supposed to whistle in the presence of the Aurora Borealis? Here are 6 funny and fascinating facts about the mesmerizing Aurora Borealis.
A collision of Oxygen atoms and charged particles decided the colours
The Aurora Borealis is a series of scientific phenomenons that involve atmospheric conditions, magnetic fields, the North and South Pole and solar winds. While green is the most common colour visible in the Aurora, it’s also possible to see yellows, blues, violets and occasionally white, orange and red.
When particles collide with oxygen, the aurora produces green and yellow. When particles collide with nitrogen, you’ll see red, violet and occasionally blue. The colours can also be affected by altitude. Greens typically are visible up to 241km, reds are visible above 150 miles, blues are visible up to 96km and purple/violet is visible above 100km.
You may have heard that the lights often “dance” which occurs when solar flares are strong and the Aurora is filled with ever-changing colour.
Both the North Pole and the South Pole are necessary for the Auroras to occur and while the Northern Lights get much more publicity, the Southern Lights are actually just as strong and mesmerizing as the Northern.
The reason you don’t hear about the Southern Lights as much is that most of the human population lives where you can see the Northern Lights. The majority of earth’s landmass is in the north with only 20% of landmass being in the Southern Hemisphere so while the Southern Lights are equally epic, you probably won’t hear about them as much as the Northern.
Unless you’re at sea, you can only view the Southern Lights in South Georgia Island, New Zealand and the Falkland Islands.
You don’t have to be under Earth’s atmosphere to see the Northern Lights, in fact, if you’re an astronaut at the International Space Station, you’ll be at the same altitude as the Northern Lights meaning you can see the lights from the side.
We’re not the only planet that has Auroras. Other gas giants in our solar system like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune also have thick atmospheres with strong magnetic fields which is a perfect recipe for auroras. The auroras may look different than the one we have on Earth but scientifically they are all the same.
The Aurora Borealis has been mystifying humans for centuries and so it comes as no surprise that the Aurora featured heavily in mythology. Even the name itself has its roots in mythology. Aurora is the Roman Goddess of dawn and Boreas is the Greek word for the north wind.
In Icelandic folklore, the Northern Lights were believed to help ease the pain of childbirth but it was advised that pregnant people do not look directly at the lights or their child would be born cross-eyed. in Greenland folklore, it was believed that the Aurora held the souls of children who had died in childbirth and in Norway, the lights were once believed to be the spirits of old maids dancing in the skies.
The Sami people are indigenous to the Nordic countries believe that the Aurora carried the sounds of their dead ancestors and must be treated with respect. It’s taboo to whistle or sing in their presence otherwise you risk being whisked away by the lights, never to be seen again.
You may associate the Northern Lights with the cold dark nights in winter but the lights are actually appearing all the time. The sky conditions determine whether you can see the Northern Lights but whether you see them or not, they are still present.
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