Aurora Borealis is one of the most spectacular games of light seen in nature. It is easy to be captivated by the beauty of the phenomenon, with waves of blue, green, red or purple light, walking in the sky. These lights are indicators that the earth saves our lives, protecting us from solar radiation.
How is the aurora borealis formed?
Aurora borealis is a natural phenomenon of almost incredible beauty and is formed by the collision of gaseous molecules on Earth with magnetically charged particles from solar winds. Specifically, electrons and protons from the Sun are projected to Earth by so-called solar winds.
Most often, the northern lights have yellow-green tones, being produced by the collision with oxygen molecules, located at an altitude of almost 90 kilometers. In case of contact with nitrogen molecules, blue or blue-purple auroras occur. Red polar auroras are rare and are produced by oxygen particles located at altitudes of over 320 kilometers. Even rarer is the yellow and purple aurora borealis.
Where is the aurora borealis best seen?
In northern Norway, this city has 76,000 inhabitants. It is the third largest city in the Arctic Circle. But don’t worry. Due to the warm Atlantic current (Gulf Stream) originating in the Gulf of Mexico, which continues its route to the north of the Scandinavian Peninsula, temperatures are not so low in Tromsø. For example, in the middle of winter, temperatures rarely drop below -20 degrees. Bearable, considering we’re talking about the approach of the Arctic Circle, though.
Rovaniemi (Lapland), Finland
In Santa’s Land, the northern lights look great. There are many special national parks nearby, such as Pyhä-Luosto, Oulanka, Pallas-Yllästunturi, Riisitunturi or Urho Kekkonen. Places that form the ideal setting from where you can see the northern lights. You will be able to admire the snowy nature and the frozen trees that seem unreal, called “Tykky”. Here in Rovaniemi, the capital of the Lapland region, the aurora can be seen for about 150 nights in a year.
Myths and curiosities about the aurora borealis
- The aurora borealis is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena and it is not surprising that around it have formed, over time, a lot of myths and legends. In addition, there are still many curiosities about the polar aurora.
- The term aurora borealis was first mentioned by Galileo Galilei in 1619, and comes from the Roman goddess of the eastern Aurora and the wind god Boreas.
- In the 18th century, the English navigator James Cook noticed the presence of the phenomenon observed by Galileo in the Indian Ocean, naming it the Southern Aurora.
- Polar auroras were also created artificially. Scientists have managed to obtain a green auroral effect by emitting radio rays in the night sky. As in the case of the natural phenomenon, the particles touched the ionosphere, stimulating the electrons in the plasma. The rays of light were emitted when the electrons collided with the Earth’s atmosphere.
- The first mention of the aurora borealis phenomenon in Norse mythology is found in the Konungs Skuggsja chronicle, in 1250. The author gave, at that time, three possible explanations for this phenomenon. One would have been that the ocean would have been surrounded by vast fires. The second claimed that the sun’s rays could have reached the “night side” of the world. And last but not least, that glaciers could store energy so that they become fluorescent.
- Over time, much has been written and talked about sounds associated with the aurora phenomenon. However, scientists claim that the energy of auroras and other factors make these sounds unlikely to reach the ground. Moreover, the synchronization of sounds with visible changes in the aurora would not be possible due to the time lag required for the sound to propagate so that it can be heard
Legends about the aurora borealis
- The Sami people (from northern Europe) believed that man should be quiet and silent looking at the guovssahasa – the lights of the north. If they were ridiculed or sung about, the lights could have killed the people doing it.
- A very old Scandinavian name for aurora borealis translates as mackerel lightning. The lights were thought to be reflexes launched by large piles of mackerel in the sky.
- In Finland, the name used for the aurora is revontulet, which translates as “fox fire”. Legends there say that fire foxes lived in Lapland, and the strongest sparks came out of their tails.