In Alaska, Canada, Norway, Finland or northern Russia, on a clear night, a greenish glow is often seen in the sky, known as the “Northern Lights.”
During magnetic storms, the glow may move southwards, and on occasion it can be seen in much of the US. It often appears as a glow on the horizon, like the glow preceding sunrise, and has therefore become known among scientists as “aurora borealis” (“aurora” for short), Latin for “northern dawn.
To an observer, an aurora is a fascinating spectacle, constantly moving and changing. It usually consists of many near-vertical greenish rays, forming long arcs and curtains, which stretch like ribbons across the sky, often from horizon to horizon.
The location of auroras on Earth is strongly controlled by the Earth’s magnetism.
The aurora is made up of blue, green, and red light. The highest part of the auroral curtain is red, the middle is greenish-white and the lower edge is pink. These color variances are due to the nature of the atmosphere at these different altitudes and the way oxygen emits light.
Ancient Eskimos thought that the aurora was a narrow torch lit pathway for departed souls going to heaven.
Others thought spirits happily playing soccer with a walrus skull caused the aurora.
The elders of Barrow, Alaska recall wielding knives to fend off the aurora in case it tried to carry them away.
To the Iglulik Eskimo, arsharneq or arshät was a powerful spirit who assisted shamans.
The philosopher Seneca wrote of Romans during a rare, red aurora rushing off to save the port of Ostia thinking the town was ablaze.
Indeed, what a wonderful world !
This blog is to honor the Mother Earth in Earth Week( 16-23 April 2011)