The Aurora Borealis is a breathtaking display of brightly colored lights that grace the far northern and southern skies of our planet. Though they primarily appear in hypnotizing shades of green, sometimes they are pink, yellow, or orange. People come from far and wide to be dazzled by these waves of color in the sky. Many have it in their bucket lists to travel and see this light show.
What causes this magical phenomenon? It looks like something out of a movie, but it’s real, and has a scientific explanation. Understanding the science does not take the magic from this display. Rather, it adds to our sense of wonder when we know what is causing it.
The Sun’s Playing Games
One could say the Aurora Borealis is the sun going out of her way to dazzle us. These lights appear when gaseous particles of the earth’s atmosphere come together with charged particles from the sun.
The colors you see are related to the types of gas particles colliding and how far away they are. That typical neon green that you see in pictures is the product of oxygen about sixty miles above the earth. When the Aurora appears pink or yellow, it means that the gas is higher in the atmosphere, closer to the sun.
The science behind Aurora Borealis had been speculated for centuries. But no theories emerged for certain until the 1800s. During that time, the connection was suspected between the Northern Lights and the sun. As scientists developed ways of solving mysteries, they figured out that distance is a factor, and the type of gas involved —nitrogen, for example, creates blue or purple lights.
Where Can We See Them?
Many people who want to experience the magic of Aurora Borealis must travel a long way. The most popular spots include Canada, Greenland, or Russia. The farther north you go, the better your chances of seeing them.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to the northern hemisphere, though. You can also see the same phenomenon in the Southern Hemisphere. However, in the part of the globe, the phenomenon is referred to as the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis. You can see it in parts of Australia and New Zealand. Travelers to the two poles can be delighted by this show.
If you want to make sure you see the colors in the sky, winter is the best time to travel. That’s because the nights are longer, offering a better chance of spotting them. Make sure to look on a clear night, too. Clouds can obscure even the brightest of the Aurora.
Nature has countless beautiful wonders with which to dazzle. But of all of them, the Aurora Borealis is unique. It brings to mind wizards waving magic wands, coloring the sky, making travelers feel they are in a dream.