Whether you know them by their scientific name, the aurora borealis, or their colloquial name, the Northern lights, there’s no denying that the brilliant, multi-colored natural phenomenon has thrilled humanity for generations. I mean, what’s not to love about a display of gorgeous lights in the night sky, surrounded by stars? However, while it’s easy to camp out when the weather report says that there will be aurora borealis activity that evening, how much do you really know about the phenomenon itself? Where do the northern lights come from? Who was the first to spot them? Why are there different colours? Why are they seen in the southern hemisphere as well, despite their name? What causes the different colours? There are so many questions surrounding the stunning lights.
While pretty much everyone knows of the northern lights, most of us don’t know too much about them – and we’re here to help. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the aurora borealis. Next time you manage to catch a gorgeous light show, you can stun all your friends with your facts.
10 They’re visible from space
9 They’re very tough to accurately predict
8 They happen in the south, too
7 The next big cycle will be in 2024
6 Different ions make the different colors
5 Many famous intellectuals have studied the lights
4 Galileo Galilei and Pierre Gassendi were the first to name the lights
3 They’re further away than you think
2 There are many cultural legends about the lights
1 Earth isn't the only planet that has them
While those of us on earth are huge fans of the aurora borealis and love capturing the beautiful phenomena on film, it’s not something that is exclusive to our planet or atmosphere. Auroras are also known to occur on other planets and are located similarly, towards the magnetic poles of the respective planets. While they’re not a given for every solar body, astronomers have been able to see auroras on everything from Jupiter to Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. That’s a lot of gorgeous auroras!
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