Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights 3.19.11

Nome, cloudy skies, some snow, perhaps drizzle falling today

Northern Lights, McGrath, AK


In Takotna a week ago, the Northern Lights appeared brightly, shimmering green. A friend sent me photos he took of them that night; to photograph these, a tripod is necessary because it’s difficult to hold a camera still enough.

This site,, gives aurora borealis forecasts as to how “good” the night’s show will be. The night I saw them, the forecast was a 4. These lights are a natural light display in the sky, caused by the collision of charged particles directed by earth’s magnetic field. They are especially easy to see in the polar regions.

The Northern Lights were named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas.

The science of these lights involves photon emissions from ionized nitrogen atoms which regain an electron and oxygen and nitrogen atoms changing from an excited state to a ground state. Solar wind particles excite, or ionize, these atoms when they collide. Oxygen emissions produce green or brownish-red lights and nitrogen emissions produce blue or red lights.

Chemistry classes—research this light phenomena, illustrate the process by which it happens, visit the site above for information on the Northern Lights. 

Northern Lights, McGrath, AK