The Kiss of the Goddess of Dawn and God of the Northern Wind – Mystical Facts about the Aurora Borealis

Mystical Facts about the Northern Lights

Have you ever thought The Northern Light was named after 2 Greek gods? Galileo named Aurora Borealis, Nothern Lights, after the Goddess of Dawn and God of the Northern Wind. According to Greek mythology, Aurora is the goddess of dawn and Boreas is the god of Nothern wind according to Greek mythology.

Seen in the polar regions, Aurora can be seen with colors of green, pink, violet, and sometimes even red. Previously, the aurora was only visible at the poles, but this year, it can be seen in most of Europe and South America. In this article, we delve into ten fascinating facts about the Northern Lights, exploring the scientific processes behind Northern Lights, their presence in culture and folklore, and the best places around the world to witness this celestial ballet.

From the Sun to the Earth 

The solar wind, composed mainly of electrons and protons, is expelled by the Sun. These charged particles travel an immense distance of over 150 million kilometers to reach Earth. The Earth’s magnetic field captures and funnels these particles towards the magnetic poles. In the magnetic poles, they collide with atmospheric gases, causing the gases to light up and create auroras.

The Science Behind Colors

The specific colors of the Northern Lights are determined by the type of gas molecules involved. Collisions with oxygen at high altitudes (up to 300 kilometers) produce rare, all-red auroras, while typical green colors are seen at altitudes around 100 kilometers. Nitrogen collisions result in blue or purple glows at even lower altitudes.

GreenOxygen
VioletNitrogen at an altitude of 60 miles or less
RedOxygen at altitudes of 300 to 400 km

The identical twin Auroras

The auroras at both the North and South Poles are not just similar—they are nearly identical and occur simultaneously. This symmetry is due to the Earth’s magnetic field lines, which guide the solar particles in a mirrored fashion around the globe, ensuring that the auroral displays are comparable in both shape and timing.

Astronauts swim Through the Auroras

From the International Space Station, astronauts experience the Northern Lights in a way no one on Earth can. They fly through the altitudes where auroras occur, often going through the light layers themselves. This proximity provides a fantastic view and valuable data for understanding the extent and composition of auroral displays.

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Aurora at London, UK Image Credit @OThingstodo

Not only on the Earth 

Auroras are a universal phenomenon, not exclusive to Earth. Giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn also experience similar displays. These auroras are much larger and more powerful due to the planets’ stronger magnetic fields and more substantial atmospheres, highlighting the diversity of auroral phenomena across the solar system.

The Human Eye is not always the best

While the Northern Lights are stunning to the naked eye, cameras equipped with long exposure settings can capture a range of colors and details that human eyes cannot see. This capability is due to the camera’s ability to accumulate more light over time, revealing finer details and more vibrant colors of the aurora. 

The Inuit Culture

The aurora holds profound cultural significance for the Inuit, who perceive it as a spiritual manifestation. Their legend of “Aqsarniit” illustrates how the lights have shaped indigenous folklore, embedding the phenomenon in a narrative of life, death, and afterlife that underscores the cultural importance of natural events.

Historical Naming

Galileo inspired the naming of Aurora Borealis with both geographical and mythological elements. His choice to use “Aurora” linked the phenomenon with mythic symbolism, while “Borealis” refers specifically to its appearance in northern latitudes, showcasing how early scientific observation was often interwoven with artistic and poetic influences.

Sounds of the Aurora

The reported sounds associated with the Northern Lights, such as crackling or humming, are rare and remain a mysterious aspect of the phenomenon. These sounds are theorized to result from electromagnetic phenomena that are not yet fully understood, adding another layer of mystery to the aurora’s mystique.

Best Places to Witness

The reliability of aurora sightings increases with proximity to the magnetic poles. Northern cities like Churchill, Manitoba, offer some of the best viewing opportunities due to their geographic location, dark skies, and frequent auroral activity. This makes them prime destinations for those seeking to experience the magic of the Northern Lights.

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