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The Mystery of the Northern Lights

The northern lights, astronomical phenomena that refer to natural and awe-inspiring light displays in the sky, are officially referred to as Aurora Borealis.  These displays are typically observed during the night hours and visible within the very Northern Hemisphere.  The visibility of the lights increases the closer you are to the North Magnetic Pole because of the long periods of darkness experienced in the darkness and the magnetic field. Thus, the Northern lights can be seen in many regions around northern Canada, including the Northwest Territories. 

Auroras often light up the northern horizon in a mysterious and somewhat eerie greenish or sometimes pale red glow.  They often burst into shapes and appear to be dancing across the sky.  They occur most frequently from March to April and September to October, though they can be viewed at other times throughout the year. 

The Aurora Borealis have been observed for centuries and tales surrounding the mysterious lights have persisted since ancient times.  The Cree people (one of the largest groups of Aboriginals found in North America, located primarily throughout Canada) call the Auroras the “Dance of the Spirits” while the American Inuit people referred to the lights as football players, or the spirits of the dead playing football with a walrus head.  There are also a number of legends passed down from generation go generation about the lights coming down and snatching children who misbehaved.

While modern science and technological advances have explained some aspects of the Northern Lights, they largely remain a mystery.  NASA scientists found that magnetic explosions (also known as geomagnetic storms) that occur approximately one-third of the distance to the moon cause the spectacular lights to burst and dance across the sky and give the Aurora Borealis their eerie color.  But despite the rudimentary scientific explanations, the Northern Lights remain one of Earth’s most mind-blowing and truly bizarre mysteries. 


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