The beautiful, vibrant lights of the aurora occur when electrically charged particles from the sun collide upon entry into the earth’s atmosphere. While they’re typically seen closer to the South and North poles, these wonders of the world can actually be seen from impressive distances away.
The Northern Lights are known as ‘Aurora Borealis’, while those in the South will find ‘Aurora Australis’. The former means “dawn of the north”, while the latter means “dawn of the south”. In Roman mythology, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn. Many other cultures have legends about these lights as well, and many indigenous people worldwide believe that they point to spirits, either of the animals they have hunted, or the spirits of their own people.
The stunning colours that we observe are as a result of the colliding gas particles that are released from the sun’s atmosphere. They can appear red, yellow, blue or violet, but most commonly they are a rather yellowish green, or even pink. The yellow hues are caused by oxygen molecules around 60 miles above the earth, while the rarer red auroras are caused by high-altitude oxygen, as many as 200 miles high into the sky! If you see blues or purples, that’s typically nitrogen at work. Auroral displays can also take on many forms, from scattered clouds to shooting rays. Regardless of the colours you see, no two nights are the same, making for a unique and breathtaking experience regardless, and more than worth seeing again and again.