This is the time of year when the Northern Lights become the most visible. When you are exploring and purchasing souvenirs in Fairbanks, AK, take time to view this extraordinary natural event. The dancing sky colors present in different shades of red, yellow, blue and green, and they appear in many shapes and forms influenced by the surrounding clouds. Here are five facts about the Northern Lights to help you enjoy them more:
- There are also “Southern Lights”: This phenomenon occurs in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It is a result of electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth’s atmosphere, where they collide and produce the bright flickering colors. However, as you may guess, they are not called the Northern Lights in the lower half of the Earth! Here the formal name of the Northern Lights is “Aurora borealis,” but in the south, they are the “Aurora australis.”
- Wide color palette: Color is determined by the types of gas particles that collide. The most common color of the Northern Lights is pale yellow-green because low-altitude oxygen is the dominant element in the atmosphere. Other gases produce different colors. Nitrogen presents blue or purple-red auras, and rare all red lights are a result of high-altitude oxygen.
- Long research history: The Inuit believed the lights represented the spirits of animals they hunted. In the southern hemisphere, tribes embraced the ideas that the lights were the spirits of all living things, including people. It was in 1880 when the link was made between the lights and atmospheric gases. Research advanced further in the 1950s thanks to balloons, radar, rockets and satellites. This is when scientists confirmed they were the result of electrons and protons from the sun being blown towards the Earth on a “solar wind.” The primary research facility, Poker Flats at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, still studies the lights today using rockets.
- Extensive territory: The Aurora lights extend from 50 miles to as high as 400 miles from the Earth’s surface. While Alaska is a well-known place to see them, their territory is much more extensive. The Northern Lights have appeared as far south as New Orleans in the northern hemisphere. However, their southern counterpart is concentrated in a ring around Antarctica and the Indian Ocean. Alaska, the Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories experience the lights most frequently in North America. Outside our continent, the Northern Lights appear in the southern tip of Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Siberia.
- Conditions to see them best: Our northern winter presents the best conditions to see the Northern Lights. Long darkness and clear nights enhance their visibility. Find a spot that does not experience light pollution so you can enjoy an extensive array of colors. The Northern Lights peak every 11 years, and that last cycle was in 2013. While you may enjoy a more intense light show in 2024, you will still not be disappointed seeing them this year.
For gifts, Native art and souvenirs in Fairbanks, AK, visit Arctic Travelers Gift Shop. Pay us a visit and find unique items to remind you of your trip to see the Northern Lights!
Categorised in: Souvenirs
This post was written by Writer