Jan Ellen Ferrigan

Nature’s Fireworks


Sometimes when I think of summer, I think of fireworks, and sometimes when I think of fireworks, I think of aurora borealis or the Northern Lights.

The one time I saw aurora borealis, I was on a white water rafting trip near Ottawa, Canada. The aurora looked so, well, unnatural, that at first I didn’t believe the person who told me it was the Northern Lights.

If you would like to see what they look like, play this National Geographic time-lapse video of the aurora borealis on a night over Norway:

The aurora borealis happens because charged particles (mostly from solar wind) enter the earth’s upper atmosphere and collide with gas particles (like oxygen and nitrogen). The gas particles briefly hold electrons from the collison in an “excited state”. When they release the electrons, they release energy as light and that is why (in my somewhat understanding) we see the aurora borealis.

The best time to see the aurora borealis is fall through spring in northern arctic areas – but you may get lucky, like me – and see it on a summer’s eve south of where it usually appears.

If there is a really big solar storm, the aurora can be seen almost everywhere. But that is unusual and not real desirable.
See this article about what happened when a big solar storm reached earth in 1859:
1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth by Matthew Lasar on arstechnica.com

Have you seen the aurora borealis?


Author: janellenferrigan

Writer who likes to play outside

4 thoughts on “Nature’s Fireworks

  1. See it is one of the things on my Life List or “bucket list” (as some call it). How AWESOME!

  2. How lucky are you?! This one’s on my bucket list, and on my 7 year old’s bucket list as well. Just missed seeing them when we went to see polar bears in Churchill (me & the hubby, that is, before kids).

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