Hunting for the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights: The spirits of our ancestors hanging out in the sky, or the scientifically-explainable phenomenon caused by high-speed subatomic collisions? Most folks have heard of the majestic dancing lights in the sky. We all probably know that they are the identical twins of the Southern Lights, and that both are visible near the magnetic poles of the north and south and they just glitter and flutter up in the atmosphere like iridescent waves on a black beach. But for those who dare to track down these sometimes elusive lights, there are some things to know to seek the glow.
Let’s start with the attention-getters: The lights are caused by solar winds careening away from the sun and colliding with particles in our atmosphere, some 40-hours later. As these million mile-per-hour electrons come flying from earth toward the sun, they smash into gas particles in our atmosphere. Counter-intuitively, it is because the magnetic fields are weaker at the poles that the electrons are able to break through and interact with our atmosphere, resulting in the green, pink, red, and even violet Borealis display. At these high speeds and unpredictable presence, it can be tough to see them.
Or, at least, that’s one explanation. Many other, far more ancient theories exist, such as the Inuit belief that the Northern Lights are actually spirits playing football with the head of a Walrus. While science, sadly, tends to dismiss this notion, the issue is unresolved as far as this author is concerned. Walrus heads is simply a more interesting explanation.
Though the days will be short during the months when the lights are visible, there is plenty to do during the days. Sometimes the Northern Lights are even visible during the day, but not to the naked eye. Pictures of day-lit skies can sometimes reveal the solar activity. There’s a reason people come from across the world to see the Northern Lights: They are spectacular when the timing is right, usually from mid-to-late december through March. Ideally, you’ll want to give yourself at least 3-4 solid days to keep watch, and having a knowledgable eye on hand to watch the skies is always helpful! I defy you to find a more impressive natural phenomenon in the sky.
Are you interested in seeing the Northern Lights? Check out our Northern Lights Adventure.