What are the Northern Lights? The areas around the Artic Circle and the North Pole are the best viewing spots for one of nature's most spectacular light shows, the aurora borealis (ah-roar-uh bore-ee-al-is) or Northern Lights. Dazzling lights flicker and shift across the sky. Beginning as a silver-green arc, this curtain of light ripples across the sky flickering, glowing, and shifting in shades of green, yellow, pink, red, blue, and purple.
What causes this fantastic display? The answer begins with the sun. Solar flare explosions shoot off particles of electrons and protons, some of which are carried away by solar wind. Travelling at speeds of more than 600,000 miles per hour, some particles eventually reach Earth. The Earth's magnetic fields tug at the energy-charged particles, pulling them into our planet's atmosphere. There meet up with main gases in our atmosphere, oxygen and nitrogen. The collision causes the gases to light up and glow in a profusion of color.
What's More About This Atmospheric Polar Light Shows?
- People living in Iceland are often treated to light shows.
- The aurora borealis gets its name from two gods—Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, and Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind.