The Northern Lights are among the most beautiful and mysterious natural wonders ever documented with many myths and theories developing about their origins and meaning. There are many areas of the world where the Northern Lights can be seen in the world with lights possible in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Among the myths that have grown up around the Northern Lights is that of the Aboriginal people of Australia and New Zealand who believed the lights to be the reflection of campfires ancient people had enjoyed for thousands of years.
What are the Northern Lights?
This is one of the most exciting questions to be posed because the process of forming the Northern Lights forms millions of miles from the Earth on the surface of the Sun. There has long been a theorized link between solar flares and the arrival of the Northern Lights in both the northern and southern hemispheres. In the north, the phenomenon is known as the Aurora borealis and the Aurora australis in the southern hemisphere.
Scientists have completed research on the origins of the Northern Lights for thousands of years dating back beyond Galileo Galilei to ancient times. Scientists have consistently asked, what are the Northern Lights for centuries. However, a recent study showed the origin of this beautiful natural light display begins on the surface of the Sun with the release of particles in the form of a gas, known as a Coronal Mass Ejection. The release of this form of gas is well-known for providing problems with electronic equipment and have been known to cause problems with the communication between Earth-bound equipment and satellites.
When the gases released by the Sun make their way towards the poles of the Earth they can interact with the magnetic field of the planet that focuses on the North and South Poles. The majority of the particles from a CME are deflected beyond the atmosphere of the Earth, but a few slide into the atmosphere and collide with gas particles to create an interaction that can include the emission of light. These particles are the cause of the Northern Lights and are best seen at night or when the skies are dark.
Why Are There Different Colors?
There are some theories about why the lights can be seen in different colors and shades throughout their cycle. The different colors of the Northern Lights are explained by scientists by the height of the particles when they are descending through the atmosphere are collide with other gas particles. When you look out across the night sky and see the most common aurora colors of yellowish-green, these particles have fallen close to the surface of the Earth before they collide with other forms of gas. These are usually around 60 to 150 miles from the surface of the Earth.
Several different colors can be seen in the night sky when you are looking to view the Northern Lights, including the blueish hue that is seen in the lights at some points. When the lights turn blue they are at their closest to the surface of the planet, according to some scientific theories. Some experts have theorized the particles from the Sun are just 60 miles or less from the surface of the Earth when they interact with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Much rares are the lights that have a pink or reddish color that interacts with gases at the edge of the atmosphere above 150 miles from the surface of the Earth.
Where to See the Northern Lights?
One of the things that you should know is there have been reports of the Northern Lights being seen as far south as the Equator. However, they are commonly seen close to the poles of the Earth where the magnetic field is at its most active. Among the areas of the planet where the Northern Lights are at their most active areas in the extreme north during the winter months. Nations such as Greenland and parts of Scandinavia that are located within the Arctic Circle see long nights that allow the Lights to be seen for longer periods of time. Check out a full list of the best places to see the Northern Lights here.
The Northern Lights are visible in many parts of North America, including the most northerly areas of Canada and Alaska where they can be seen through the majority of the year. The phenomenon is best known for occurring over the winter months, but this is because the skies are darker over this period of the year and the lights are easier to see. If you are looking to see the Northern Lights the winter months in nations in the extreme north are usually the easiest to see.