May 18, 2024

Northern lights (aurora borealis): What they are & how to see them

As Earths magnetic field reroutes the particles toward the North Pole, the dramatic procedure transforms into a cinematic atmospheric phenomenon that dazzles and captivates researchers and skywatchers alike.The history of the northern lightsThough it was Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei who created the name “aurora borealis” in 1619– after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas– the earliest suspected record of the northern lights is in a 30,000-year-old cavern painting in France.Since that time, civilizations around the world have actually marveled at the celestial phenomenon, ascribing all sorts of origin misconceptions to the dancing lights. One North American Inuit legend suggests that the northern lights are spirits playing ball with a walrus head, while the Vikings thought the phenomenon was light showing off the armor of the Valkyrie, the supernatural maidens who brought warriors into the afterlife.Early astronomers likewise discussed the northern lights in their records. In the Northern Hemisphere, the phenomenon is called the northern lights (aurora borealis), while in the Southern Hemisphere, its called the southern lights (aurora australis).

As Earths magnetic field reroutes the particles toward the North Pole, the significant procedure transforms into a cinematic atmospheric phenomenon that impresses and fascinates researchers and skywatchers alike.The history of the northern lightsThough it was Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei who coined the name “aurora borealis” in 1619– after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas– the earliest thought record of the northern lights is in a 30,000-year-old cavern painting in France.Since that time, civilizations around the world have marveled at the celestial phenomenon, ascribing all sorts of origin myths to the dancing lights. One North American Inuit legend suggests that the northern lights are spirits playing ball with a walrus head, while the Vikings believed the phenomenon was light showing off the armor of the Valkyrie, the supernatural maidens who brought warriors into the afterlife.Early astronomers likewise mentioned the northern lights in their records. In the Northern Hemisphere, the phenomenon is called the northern lights (aurora borealis), while in the Southern Hemisphere, its called the southern lights (aurora australis). “The northern lights are occurring 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” stated photographer Chad Blakely, owner of northern lights trip business Lights Over Lapland. Its pretty challenging to get into the middle of the Arctic wilderness, even with a guide, so its best to base yourself in a location with strong facilities, like Fairbanks, Alaska; Yellowknife, Canada; Svalbard, Norway; Abisko National Park, in Sweden; Rovaniemi, Finland; and pretty much anywhere in Iceland.Related: Where to see the northern lights: 2021 aurora borealis guideThe best time of year to see the northern lights is in between September and April, when the sky gets dark enough to see the aurora.