Every once in a while, you may just look out your window and up at the sky and see something truly awe-inspiring.
Last week in Imatra, Finland, the sky was illuminated as the Northern Lights danced above us. The Northern Lights, also referred to as Aurora Borealis, is a natural light display found commonly in high latitude areas near the Arctic region. A similar phenomenon can be seen around the Antarctic regions and is referred to as the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis.
While it is extremely rare to see the Northern Lights from where we live, it is more common farther north. The phenomenon is a result of a solar wind disruption in the magnetosphere causing particle ionization to emit light. While the lights we observed last week were predominantly green with traces of purple, light bands and clouds can also illuminate the skies with yellows, blues and pinks.
Interesting Facts About Auroras:
- The most active periods to see the Northern Lights in Finland are in the months of October and March.
- Most auroras form in the auroral zone in a latitude between 10° and 20° from the geomagnetic poles.
- Auroras can be seen outside of the zone when geomagnetic storms cause the light bands to widen.
- Galileo named the lights in 1619 after the Roman goddess of the dawn, "Aurora," and the Greek term for the north wind, "Boreas."
- Active auroras change shape frequently and appear to dance in the night's sky.
- Periodically, close to the poles, when intense solar activity occurs, auroras can glow a crimson red and may be mistaken for the setting sun.
- The Northern Lights are regularly visible in Iceland from September through April depending on weather conditions.
- The aurora phenomenon occurs on other planets and has been observed on Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Saturn.