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Legend of the lights

Northern lights, Iceland

Astral, artistic and enigmatic, is what cumulatively describes, one of mother nature’s most eye catching phenomena, ‘The Auroras’. Known as the aurora borealis or the Northern lights in the Northern hemisphere and the aurora australis or Southern lights in the Southern hemisphere, these auroras are a spectacular array of colors brushing against the night skies of the North and South pole.

As mystical as these extraordinary paintings in the night sky may sound, the occurrence of this luminous phenomenon is caused by the complex structure and dynamic of the Earth’s atmosphere. Although visible only in the night sky, these auroras are actually caused by the sun. Along with the light and heat we receive from the sun, energy and small particles also make their way into the Earth’s atmosphere. However, it is the protective magnetic field present around the Earth that shields us from most of the energy and particles. A constant circus of solar winds and storms transpire along the sun’s surface. It is during one such solar storm that the sun ejects a huge cloud of electrified gas that travels at high speed through space. And when these electrified gases come toward us, the small particles and energy it carries, travel into the Earth’s atmosphere at the north and south poles. It is the interaction of such particles, with the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that are responsible for the radiant spectacle in the night skies of the North and South pole.

The sighting of this electric display of colors is sought out by many, travelling from places far and wide just to catch a glimpse of this spectacular phenomena. Some would describe it as a once in a life-time opportunity, saving it a place on their bucket list. However, finding front row seats to this celestial display in the dark sky can be tricky, as the probability of spotting the auroras is an amalgamation of the right weather and the right season. March and September are the more prominent months known for raining auroras. This is due to the increased interaction between the Earth’s atmosphere and solar particles in the polar latitudes during times nearing equinoxes. Iceland, Alaska, Canada, Norway, and Greenland are among the handful of places best suited for the sighting of the Northern lights, their Northern latitude and low light pollution being the key. The Southern lights on the other hand are less heard of. This is due to the existence of fewer locations conveniently accessible to humans for their sightings. The ideal areas to spot them being, Tasmania and New Zealand, the closest places to the magnetic pole of the South.

Northern Lights Cathedral, Alta-Norway

Although the auroras are a scientifically proven graphic spectacle of celestial interactions, letting your imagination wild and theorizing that it’s the demigods up there splashing paints on their life size canvas of a sky are the ones actually responsible for this display of flashing lights, shouldn’t be a crime. Over the decades, the sightings of the auroras as a curtain of dancing lights enveloping the night sky have gone from being a scientific marvel to an artist’s muse. From food and fashion, light installations, architecture, musical compositions and painting expos, the auroras have turned into a popular subject among the artistic community. One such architectural landmark, drawing inspiration from the aurora borealis, is the ‘Cathedral of the Northern Lights- Norway’. A structure, built purely to honor the sightings of the aurora borealis in the town of Alta-Norway, the titanium facade reflects the Northern lights, enhancing the experience of the magical phenomenon.

As artistically inspiring as all this might sound, until you get to experience this intoxicating marvel with your bare eyes, go, get out your paints and brushes. Try to envision the most vibrant, lustrous sunset you’ve ever seen on an otherwise clear and starry sky and then send it spiraling and rippling across your canvas. And you might very well have yourself, imagining the magical celestial phenomenon of the night skies of the poles.


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