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What Are The Northern Lights?

What are these amazing colors in the sky?

The Inuits say don’t whistle, 
when the northern lights are high,
lest they swoop to earth and carry you up to the luminescent sky.
– From Labrador in Winter by poet Kate Tuthill

One of the most fascinating, dramatic and dazzling displays in the night sky is the Northern Lights, also known in northern latitudes as the Aurora Borealis, named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for north wind Boreas.

What Causes Northern Lights?

This display of fantastic colors is the reaction of energized solar winds that result in bands of light, which appear near the poles and light up the skies. They are reportedly the most visible around the equinoxes (spring and fall) because we see an increase in solar activity during these times.

The colors most often associated with the displays green, yellow, blue, violet, pink, and occasionally orange and white. Typically, when the particles collide with oxygen, yellow and green are produced. Interactions with nitrogen produce red, violet, and occasionally blue.

To view, it’s important to get a very dark night sky, with no cloud cover. And be patient!

It is possible to take pictures of the northern lights!

If you wish to capture this phenomenon on film, the best equipment to use is a camera that permits you to make long exposures (10 seconds or more) and a tripod to hold the camera still during exposures.

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to spot this amazing phenomenon, tell us in the comments below!

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Interested in becoming a guest author? Contact us to let us know!

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