Since the dawn of time, people have told wild and exciting stories and invented legends to explain the natural, but mysterious, occurrence of the Northern Lights, one of nature’s most spectacular displays, a dazzling neon light show that sparkles and spreads out across the night sky.

The Vikings, for example, thought the Northern Lights were caused by the gleaming weapons of immortal female warriors known as the Valkyrie, or that it was the Bifröst Bridge that led those who fell in battle to their final resting place in Valhalla.

In Chinese legends the northern lights were believed to be a celestial battle between good and evil dragons who breathed fire across the sky.

In Finland, where the northern lights are especially bright, the story involves a sly little arctic fox that ran so quickly across the snow its tail made sparks fly into the night sky, creating the northern lights. 

The Inuit people of Alaska believed the lights were the souls of salmon, deer, whales and other animals. The Menominee Indians thought the lights were the torches of giants living in the North.

But in fact, the Northern Lights are actually caused by electrons, which are negatively charged particles that come from the solar winds – which is a wind that shoots out from the sun and can travel the entire length of the solar system.

The electrons are attracted to the north – and south – poles by the magnetic fields found there. They mix with gases in the atmosphere, which cause those gases to glow. A solar flare, which is a sudden eruption of brightness from the Sun’s surface, can also cause the Northern Lights to appear.

The light at the North pole, or Northern Lights, are also referred to as the aurora borealis and the light at the South pole, or southern lights, is called the aurora australis.

The name Aurora is from the Roman god of the dawn; Boreas is the Greek name for the north wind.

The Northern Lights are most visible to people living in the far north but they are sometimes visible as far south as Florida.

The Northern Lights are typically the colors of green, purple, red or blue.

While the Northern Lights can appear any time, it is most likely to be seen during the colder months in the far north – between March and April and September and October.

So now you know more about the Northern Lights. What was your favorite fact? Thanks for exploring with me. See ya next time when we travel … Around the world.

Wise Owl Podcast

Hello! I am a mom and writer. I think teaching our kids about science and nature and exploring is the gift we give as parents and I am enjoying every moment of it! Please click below so you can find out how to support the podcast, books and videos. Thank you!