The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is on my bucket list to see. Although I lived for a year in Norway and 2 years in Russia and been in Finland, I've yet to be in the right place at the right time to view them.
A few fun facts:
Where can you see the Northern Lights?
The best places to see the lights are closer to the poles: Finnish Lapland, northern Norway, Northern Russia, Alaska and Canada for the Northern Lights, which are termed Aurora Borealis, and Antarctica for the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis). The Northern Lights have, however, been seen many other places closer to the equator, even as far south as Cuba and Mexico.
When can you see the Northern Lights?
You can see them at any time of the year, although of course you won't be able to see them with the naked eye unless it's dark and there's minimal light pollution (i.e. get out of the city!) The most striking displays have been observed during high solar sunspot activity.
What causes the colors, pulses, and glow?
The colors and displays come from the sun ejecting a cloud of gas from its core. If the ejected gas reaches earth (which takes about 2-3 days) it collides with the magnetic field of the Earth, causing changes to the magnetic field that produce currents of charged particles that flow along the magnetic force towards the poles. The charged particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms to produce the aurora: the Northern Lights and Southern Lights.
What is the earliest documented account of the Northern Lights?
The earliest preserved account is on a Babylonian tablet, describing the observations in 567 and 568 B.C. made by the astronomers of King Nebuchadnezzar II
Have you seen the Northern Lights?
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Photo and video credit: Terje Sorgjerd