The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are a fantastic phenomenon that creates a beautiful blanket of colors in the night sky. The sky becomes awash with greens, reds, and blues as if some magical light is streaming out of space. I am sure you have seen pictures of the Northern Lights and maybe some of you have even been lucky enough to see them in reality. Have you ever wondered what causes this particular phenomenon? Let’s learn a little more about the northern lights.
The answer is really related to the Sun. While we are aware of the Sun’s power there is more to it than meets the eye. We all know the sun sends rays of heat towards the earth that create light for us during the day and warms our planet as well.
The sun also often sends something called the solar wind. The solar wind is a stream of charged particles released from the atmosphere of the sun. This stream consists mainly of protons and electrons, the tiny building blocks of the world. While this wind is constant the properties are not. The amount of particles in the wind is ever-changing and it is these particles that cause the Northern Lights.
As the solar wind comes in contact with Earth’s orbit the particles are disrupted by our magnetic field. The solar wind is not able to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and so travels around the Earth along the atmosphere. As the particles meet with the magnetic field they react. Depending on the particles of our atmosphere coming in contact, a different color is shown. Oxygen makes red and green for example while nitrogen makes blue light.
The Northern lights are most likely to be seen the further north you go. In addition, there is also the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis that can be seen the further south you go. The Northern Lights are more famous because there is more land coverage and therefore people where the Northern Lights appear. The Southern Lights can really only be seen at the lowest point of New Zealand or Antarctica. The Northern Lights, however, can be seen in Iceland and Scandinavia in winter with a high degree of probability. They are even visible in Ireland or the United Kingdom when conditions are perfect.
Have you been lucky enough to see either the Northern or Southern Lights? If not make sure it is one thing on your bucket list as this natural wonder is sure to amaze.