The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that people from all over the world travel to see. They stretch across the skyline and fill us with awe as we gaze upon their colorful and singular beauty. You may have witnessed them or plan to go and see them someday, but either way, there are some things you probably didn't know about them.
We have created this list to help give you a better understanding of this natural wonder. You may have heard some of these facts before, but others we are certain will surprise you. Keep reading to learn 10 things you didn't know about the Aurora Borealis!
10 10. The First Record Of It Dates Back to 30,000 B.C.
The first mention of these famed Northern Lights was in a cave drawing found in France. They were said to be created back in 30,000 B.C. and were not mentioned in any writings until 3,600 B.C. in China.
They have changed the course of history as they led to the creation of different mythologies and served as the inspiration behind pieces of artwork. They still amaze us today as people travel from all over the world to witness these formations light up the night sky in a beautiful array of colors.
9 9. They Are Always Present, But Never The Same
It is interesting to know that no two patterns are ever the same. They change night after night and provide onlookers with different views in the sky. There are some who think they continually form the same pattern, but the way they are formed prevents this from happening.
If you stay and watch for several nights you will bear witness as numerous patterns and colors appear in the night sky for your enjoyment. A few of them might look alike, but they will never be an identical pair.
8 8. You Can See Them From The International Space Station
The international space station rests at the same altitude as the Aurora Borealis so they can actually see the lights from a side angle in the sky. They sometimes even pass through it when the geomagnetic pull is strong enough to draw the lights to the right height.
We can only imagine the elation the astronauts must feel every time this sight comes into view. It is an amazing thing to witness and we wish we had the chance to see it from this particular angle in space.
7 7. They Have More Than One Form
The lights can show up in a variety of patterns as it is entirely based on the level of solar activity in a single night. They might appear as a curtain or show up in funny patches like they were stitched to an old pair of jeans.
Anything is possible when it comes to these lights and there may even be formations we haven't seen yet as they are constantly changing every day. They will dance for you, but the question you have to ask yourself each night is in which particular way.
6 6. It's Not Made Of Fire Despite Its Appearances
It looks like a colorful flame, but it is anything besides that. The temperature of the light show, in fact, rests around zero degrees Fahrenheit, which is far from flame-worthy.
The density of the air where these lights form is thin, which means there is no way a hot temperature could be achieved. You might think they look like dancing flames that might warm you on a cold night, but the reality is that they would aid in your hypothermic demise.
5 5. Green Is The Most Common Color
The most common color to see the Northern Lights take on is green, but that is not the only color it can achieve. It can also turn violet, yellow and pink, and on rare occasions, you might glimpse a pure blue, orange, or even white. The color depends on the wavelength of the light that is being emitted, as well as the reaction of the chemicals.
When nitrogen is ionized you get blues and purples, but when it is excited, we see colors like orange or red. This can change as the altitude of the reaction changes, which can lead to varying degrees of oxygen and nitrogen in the different layers of the atmosphere.
4 4. Galileo Galilei Came Up With The Name In 1619
Galileo coined the term Aurora Borealis in 1619 after he came up with a theory that was later disproven. He thought that the lights were formed from the sun's rays reflecting off of Earth's atmosphere, and it wasn't discovered until later in 1902 by Kristian Birkeland that his assumptions were wrong.
The name had already been around for almost 300 years at the time so it stuck, and it is the reason it is still called that to this day. It might have been a mistake, but we will never forget his name for the eternity of our long history.
3 3. It's Formed From A Solar Flare From The Sun
The sun has something called a solar flare, which is when the sun erupts and throws radiation away from itself, kind of like a ball of charged particles. These particles fly toward the Earth at high speeds and connect with the Earth's atmosphere, causing a chemical reaction that creates these phenomenal light displays.
The electrons move into a high-energy state upon impact and create colorful photons when they drop back into their lower state. This reaction may seem a bit complicated, but all that's important is that it creates a beautiful light display and a lasting memory.
2 2. They Make Noise Too
The energetic particles used to create the light displays, also produce sound as well. It is very rare that you will be able to actually hear the lights, but sometimes during a period of high solar activity, it is possible.
It sounds similar to clapping and the noise is usually very faint as the lights are nowhere close to the ground for you to hear. The sounds can vary as much as the lights, but with a trained ear, you might just be able to hear the Northern Lights in the making.
1 1. The Best Places To View Them Are Canada And Alaska
The best place to see the Aurora Borealis is to head as far north as you possibly can. This would mean you need to head to the north pole, but seeing as no one wants to travel to no man's land, there are other options. The two best places to witness these magnificent lights are either Canada or Alaska, and it is best if you choose a place far away from civilization to minimize light pollution.
You should still try to head as far north as possible in order to have the greatest views and you won't be disappointed by the end of your long trip. The lights will illuminate the night sky with brilliant colors that will imprint themselves upon your brain for eternity.