The Northern Lights
As you exit the plane, you are greeted by a fierce gust of wind. You are in one of the most northern parts of the world. It isn’t warm, but you didn’t come for the sun. You came for the night sky, where bright colors of formless light dance. They are the aurora borealis: the northern lights.
The aurora can only be seen in polar regions, called the “auroral zone”. The first part of the name ‘aurora borealis’ comes from the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, yet the second part comes from a Latin word, boreal, meaning north. Now here’s something not many people know: the glow of the aurora actually comes from the sun. It all starts with charged particles from the sun, also known as plasma or solar wind, traveling towards earth. Within 18 hours, they reach Earth’s magnetic field and react with certain gasses. This reaction makes the plasma start to glow, creating the dazzling display of the aurora borealis.
The Northern Lights have many legends surrounding them. In Finland, there are at least 20 stories about the lights, one of which tells of a fox throws sparks into the sky, creating the mysterious glow. In fact, there, the northern lights are called “revontulet”, meaning “fox fire”. Some Eskimos carried knives with them to fend off the strange lights, and parents hid their children from the aura’s glow. Others just thought that they were human (and in other myths, animal) spirits. One of the oddest of the Eskimo myths is from Nunivak Island, where they believed that the lights were human spirits playing a game of ball with a walrus head.
Because in Europe the Northern Lights have a reddish glow, people considered them an omen of death, illness, war, bloodshed, and disaster, but the lights were rarely seen in that area. On the other hand, Scandinavians saw the northern lights with awe, and respect. They believed that it came from the sun’s light reflecting off of herring, thus it was a good omen for the fishermen.
Author: members of Aurora Experience
Name of website: Aurora Experience
Page or article title: Aurora Experience
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Name of company/institution affiliated with the website: Aurora Experience
Date you visited the site: January 28, 2008
Website address: http://www.auroraexperience.com
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