A luminous atmospheric phenomenon occurring most frequently above 60° North or South latitude, but also in other parts of the world.
It is named specifically, according to its location, aurora borealis (northern lights) or aurora australis (southern lights). The term aurora polaris (polar lights) is a general name for both.
The aurora consists of rapidly shifting patches and dancing columns of light of various hues. Studies made during and after the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year indicate that the auroral glow is triggered when the solar wind (Solar System) is enhanced by an influx of high-energy atomic particles emanating from sunspots. It only takes these particles two days to reach Earth. They travel with a speed of two million miles per hour (3 million km/h), but only some of the particles enter Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth is surrounded by a giant invisible magnetic field generated by molten metals in the planet’s interior. When some of the particles penetrate this field, they collide with gases in the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and produce a visible light - aurora borealis.
Every time Aurora Borealis occurs on the North Pole, it can be seen on the South Pole, too!
The best months to view aurora borealis are September and March.
Aurora borealis has inspired countless wonderful stories and legends...
Ancient Inuit believed that the northern lights, or aurora borealis, were the torches of spirits guiding souls to a land of happiness and plenty.
The Greenlandic name for northern light is "arsarnirit" which means "play with a ball". They believed that the northern lights were caused by the souls of the dead playing ball with walrus skulls. According to the legend, if you whistled at the northern lights, they came closer and closer until they finally made off with you.
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