Northern lights (aurora borealis) and southern lights (aurora australis)
When our Sun is more active, it creates stronger protuberances which are eddies of plasma and gases in the Sun’s outer layer. This creates a stronger solar wind which is particles of protons and electrons that are ejected into our solar system. When these hit the Earth’s magnetic poles in the north and south, auroras are formed and are called a solar storm. The speed of these particles is on average around 400 km per second (8 million km/h) which continues all the way to the heliosphere which is the outermost parts of our solar system. There they protect the earth, to a certain extent, against other cosmic radiation. But the solar wind itself can also cause problems for electrical installations on earth if it is very strong. The colors in the aurora borealis are formed when these particles collide with the particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. The speed, strength and quantity create different colours, intensity and waves in the northern lights. At altitudes above 180 km, nitrogen molecules and oxygen atoms form red light. Between 120 km and 180 km there are oxygen atoms that create a strong yellow-green light, and below 120 km it is ionized (electrically charged atoms) nitrogen that creates blue-purple light. In some cases where strong solar winds occur, northern lights can be seen far south of Scandinavia. It is not difficult to understand that the northern lights have created many exciting stories and myths surrounding the northern calotte. Some thought it was like the dances of elves, dead souls or evil omens and the Vikings found a lot of faith in the northern lights. One can imagine how Stone Age man viewed this amazing phenomenon in the dark wintertime existence they lived in. Some believe they heard sounds from it. And crackling and static sounds have been picked up in the atmosphere with electronic equipment, but northern lights researchers believe this is not audible from the earth’s surface but is a placebo effect or wishful thinking.
For me, the northern lights are at least part of the magic of the universe.
Are you superstitious?…….. then don’t whistle or wave at the northern lights, it might come and get you!