What Is An Aurora Australis? Cool Northern Lights Facts Covered! | Kidadl


What Is An Aurora Australis? Cool Northern Lights Facts Covered!

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One of the most interesting aspects seen in nature has to be the northern lights.

Most of us have seen countless pictures of the green-lit night skies and wondered how is that even possible. However, for most of us, we can't even imagine going to visit the lights anytime soon.

Aurora borealis and aurora australis in the earth's polar regions have never failed to stun people. There's something about the beautiful light shows that give it an out-of-the-world quality. Some even don't want to believe that the phenomenon is real. As the beautiful light displays are still steeped in mystery, we thought of mentioning some interesting facts about these polar lights. And, get ready to be thrilled as neither the aurora is just green or limited to the Arctic region. So, keep reading to know what is an aurora.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also read about types of cumulus clouds and what is magnetism here at Kidadl?

Formation Of Aurora

In very simple words, the aurora is formed when the solar wind from the sun is blown towards the earth and these collide with the oxygen and nitrogen present in the earth's atmosphere in the ground state, which gives rise to the beautiful lights.

Now, as you might know, the aurora is a phenomenon that's mostly seen in the polar regions of the northern or southern hemisphere. One of the key necessities for having auroras is the presence of a magnetic field that is there on the earth. Similar auroras can also be seen on Saturn and Jupiter. On earth, the light found in the north pole of the northern hemisphere is known as aurora borealis, while those occurring in the south pole are known as aurora australis. Scientists have found that there are instances when the northern and southern lights are visible at the same time and can often be mirror images.

Coming to the formation of auroras, everything begins at the sun. As you may know, the sun is composed of charged particles known as ions and there are instances when these particles from the sun seek an escape. This creates the solar wind, and at times when there is a huge influx of these ions from the sun, it creates solar storms. The earth's magnetic field performs the role of a protector from the strong solar wind that might cause harm to the atmosphere. While the magnetic field or magnetosphere gets rid of most of the charged particles, some do remain trapped in the ionosphere region of the earth's atmosphere. And, this presence is predominant in the geomagnetic north and south poles of the earth.

The phenomenon of auroras is mostly seen in regions present about 66.5 degrees north and south from the equator. When lying in the ionosphere, the charged particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen commonly found in the earth’s atmosphere and the light shows of the aurora are actually the energy released during the collision. Even though auroras may seem not far from the earth's surface, but most are 60-620 m ( 97-1,000 km) above the ground. Auroras are seen on a daily basis in the north and south horizons, but when the sun has too many sunspots, there is always a possibility to see amazing light displays.

When it comes to hues and colors, most of us associate the aurora borealis with green. However, it has been noted that the color may change drastically based on the altitudes where the aurora is present. It's also said that when the ions interact with oxygen it results in green and red light. While those ions that interact with nitrogen produce blue and purple light. Moreover, the red light curtains or auroras are mostly seen when there is a major solar activity.

Where can you see the aurora borealis?

As we have already stated, the aurora borealis, as well as the aurora australis, can mainly be seen in the area around the north pole and the south pole, respectively.

There are a lot many places from where the aurora borealis or northern lights can be seen. Many organizations take to predicting the solar wind activity to guess when the brightest activities might be seen. To catch the best scene you need to find a night sky that's free from pollution and is situated above the 55-degree latitude. Hence, each magnetic pole becomes the perfect spot for catching glimpses of auroral activity. The Arctic circle, along with the Antarctic circle, are pretty well known amongst people. However, countries in North America, like the northern half of Canada, as well as Alaska, United States are hot spots for catching the northern lights. One of the best times for visiting any location has to be during the equinoxes of March and September when the earth's magnetic field gets an influx of heavy solar wind leading to brighter and memorable auroras. Explorers also prefer moonless nights to have a darker night sky so that the red or green auroral light can shine through.

When it comes to mentioning the exact places, Iceland is a pretty good country to spot the northern lights if you are also up for traveling through diverse terrains of waterfalls and volcanoes. Situated on the west coast of Iceland is the Kirkjufell mountain that has high auroral activity. The Grotta Lighthouse of Reykjavík is another common spot for viewing the natural light. If you are in the US, going to Fairbanks, Alaska might give you an opportunity to view the best aurora displays, especially during the winter months. If you have been bemused by the pictures depicting the reflection of northern lights on lakes, Tromsø in Norway has to be one of the closest spots from the Arctic Circle where you can truly see the lights.

Having said that, there have been times when the aurora was spotted in odd places. As far back as 1770, auroras have been spotted over Kyoto, Japan. Other than that, there are solar storms, auroras can be seen even in the mid-latitudes. Some of the best Auroras have also been seen and captured from the International Space Station where they get a good view of the earth's atmosphere and the dancing light shows.

best country to see the northern lights

Which country has aurora?

Most people would associate auroras with countries situated in the far north like Greenland or Norway, but auroras can also be seen far south at several places.

Even though our minds immediately travel to the north when we think about the aurora, the solar wind activity and lights are also present in the southern latitudes, especially near the south pole. These lights are known as the southern lights or aurora australis based on the location. However, the Maori refer to these lights as the Rakiura which stands for growing skies. In the south, close to the southern part of the Indian Ocean, auroras are prominent in Australia and New Zealand, but the best ones are seen in Tasmania. There are countless places in the south to see the dancing light displays in the sky such as Hobart, Bruny Island, Mount Nelson, and Queenstown. However, if you want to go closer to the south pole, think about taking a trip to Antarctica, especially on the South Georgia Island to get spectacular views of the lit sky. But, if you are in America, think about going to Patagonia, the southernmost point of South America, making it closer to the South Pole, and it also has great views, especially during the time of May and July. A trip to the Falkland Islands may also be worth it especially during the time of May and August to view the dancing red-green lights.

The Best Countries To See Northern Lights

Hands down, the best country to see the northern lights would be Norway, but let us look at some of the other options.

When it comes to catching sight of the northern lights, you want the best view available and that means it's best to go as close as possible to the lights. And, no place can be better than Norway as it provides an excellent view of the phenomenon; and the choice of viewing spots are the Svalbard Islands. People usually visit during the winter months when the country is completely devoid of daylight, giving the aurora a chance to shine through.

Other countries from where the northern lights are visible include Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Russia, and Greenland. As you can see you may not have to go very far from your home to catch the beauty of the auroras. In Canada, the northern part of the country is especially known for spotting the northern lights. You can try visiting places in Yukon, Northern Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and British Columbia in the winter months. However, the best place after Norway to catch the aurora borealis has to be Kakslauttanen, in Finland. People mainly visit the place during the Christmas holidays to see the light show arranged by nature.

Similar to the northern lights, to get the best sight of the southern lights, you will need to visit the right place. The light can be seen in Australia and New Zealand. Bruny Island in Tasmania is the choice of most who want to see the aurora australis, and it's often a weekend getaway. There are several places dotted around Tasmania that offer a spectacular view of the natural light display. Some of the recommended places include the Satelight Islands, the central highlands, and Bathurst harbour.

Did You Know...

Here are some of the most unique facts about the auroras that you should definitely know.

The name aurora borealis was given by Galileo Galilee in 1619. The word aurora comes from the Roman Goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas. Having said that, the people living in the countries where the auroras can be seen often have special names for the phenomenon that's tied to their culture. For instance, the Cree Indians associate the auroras with the life cycle and believe the light in the sky to be a representation of their departed loved ones. On the other hand, people in Iceland and Norway, associated the light in the sky with childbirth and fertility. While in Norse mythology, the aurora is the bridge that helps the departed warriors to Valhalla.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what is an aurora Australis? Cool northern lights facts covered!, then why not take a look at Puerto Rico culture facts: curious details on Puerto Ricans revealed!, or should animals be kept in zoos? Here's the truth about wild animals?

<p>With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature.&nbsp;</p>

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