What Are The Northern Lights?

Early Chinese legends say they are good and evil dragons fighting in the sky… and in the US, some thought they were spirit guides holding torches in the sky to direct the departed to the next world. 

While many cultures have tried to explain them away, there is a scientific explanation and we now refer to them as the Northern Lights. 

More specifically, in the Northern Hemisphere, they’re called Aurora Borealis and in the Southern Hemisphere, Aurora Australis. 

The best places to see the Northern Lights in North American are in northwestern Canada, mainly in the Yukon and northwest territories of Alaska.  These dancing lights can also be seen easier here in North Dakota than in Texas.. and here’s that scientific explanation as to why…

Because of the iron core in the center of the earth, there is a magnetic field that surrounds us. This acts as a protective shield.

The weaker areas of that magnetic field are at the poles…

Solar winds eject electrically charged particles from the sun towards Earth… the Sun’s particles can’t penetrate the thicker areas of the magnetic field. But they can enter at those weaker points near the poles. 

The light is created from the collision between the Sun’s particles and Earth’s atmospheric particles.  

The different colors come from collisions with Earth’s different gaseous particles. The pale yellowish-green colors are produced from oxygen molecules. Collisions with nitrogen create more violets and reds. 

Since we’re closer to a weaker magnetic field we’re able to see these colorful collisions. That’s why they’re brighter the further north you are.

Here’s a helpful website for a Northern Lights forecast: 


Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Don't Miss