Submit Your Stuff – The Northern Lights

Posted by on Mar 17, 2011 in Submit Your Stuff | 1 comment

Submit Your Stuff – The Northern Lights

[slideshow]“Submit Your Stuff” –  See the Northern Lights, Jessica from 101 Things Before You Die

In the first of a series of posts exploring others’ goals and accomplishments (my life alone is much less interesting), I did some research on the best places to see the Northern Lights.  Jessica, from 101 Things Before You Die, told me that although this isn’t her only goal this year, it is probably “the biggest and most ambitious.”  Thanks Jessica for the topic (and for being my first and best blog supporter!)

To be honest before this post, I was a bit naive about the Northern Lights.  Sure I’ve seen pictures and heard about them.  But I really did not know anything about them specifically and really did not know even how to go about seeing them.

What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are one of seven astronomical phenomena called polar lights, or aurora polaris.  Polar lights exist both in the northern hemisphere (aurora borealis) and the southern hemisphere (aurora australis). In the most non-scientfic explanation possible….basically when the surface of the sun emits a cloud of gas and it reaches the earth, it collides with our magnetic field.  This collision generates currents of charged particles that collide with oxygen and nitrogen particles in the upper atmosphere to create the colored lights we see.

Where and when can I see them?
Actually, you can potentially see them from anywhere on earth.  Although, more frequently seen closer to the poles they have been seen as close to the Equator as Mexico.    In areas far north, like Alaska and Norway you can see the lights all year round, they can also occur any time of day but are only visible to the eye at night.

What are the best places to see them?
The short list is: Norway, Canada, Iceland and Alaska.  Tromso, Norway actually even hosts a festival  every year between November 21 and January 21.  In Norway, the lights can generally be seen between 6 p.m. and 1 a.m. every other day, all year long! U.S. based bucket-listers should head to Alaska however, where the lights are equally as impressive a (bit) less travel time.  Outside of Alaska, the states farthest north along the Canadian border are best, but your odds of seeing the lights decrease the further south you head.  Here’s an interesting map provided by NOAA, that illustrates where the oval of the northern lights can be found.

Some fun facts

  • Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) are dually credited with the term ‘aurora borealis’ (which means northern dawn)
  • The light displays can be as high as 620 miles
  • The lights tend to be more frequent and spectacular during high sunspot activity (approximately every 11 years – NASA predicts this year will be that high activity level!)
  • The earliest known account of the lights is from a Babylonian clay tablet, circa 567 BC

Submit YOUR stuff!
Maybe you have a goal and you’re not sure exactly how to accomplish it?  Or a story of an out of this world bucket list experience?  Awe-inspiring photos, send chills down your spine video?  Just a question for me you desperately need answered?  Send it my way and I’ll do my best to feature your story, answer your questions, or help you along the way.

1 Comment

  1. The solar storms are projected to be especially powerful in January and February 2012 so my friends and I are making plans to go and stay with a friend in Alaska. Thanks for the shout out!

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