09 Feb Lights
The Northern Lights are amazing, in so many ways. How they come about is not fully understood, but it goes something like this:
The Earth has a core made of molten iron. This creates a magnetic field and is why we have North and South Poles.
The Sun, ferociously burning away, continuously throws out an immense stream of charged particles, called “the solar wind”.
Our iron core protects us from this. If we didn’t have it, our atmosphere would be stripped off, like the Moon.
Every so often, the energy from the particles of the solar wind that are trapped by the magnetic field builds up, then discharges in a spectacular natural phemonena known as an “aurora”.
An example of this is the Northern Lights – the Aurora Borealis. They can be different colours, often green, and have been spotted nears the poles of Saturn. Although I don’t understand this as Saturn’s made of gas. Although I think it may have a metallic hydrogen core or something weird like that. Maybe I should look that up.
A couple of years ago, we hired a log cabin in Iceland, at the base of Mount Kirkjufell. It was so cold I threw a cup of freshly-boiled water into the air and, much to my brother’s chagrin (as he’d bet the wrong way), it came back down as snow.
I’d seen the aurora before, from the window of an overnight flight coming back from San Francisco a few years ago. It was there in the distance as I peered out of the window with bleary eyes, trying to ignore the slumbering mouth-breather in the seat next to me.
It was a sight to behold then, but nothing prepares you for experiencing them in real life, out in the open.
The epic beauty and majesty of those bright, gigantic green strands of light – ebbing, flowing, spiking and fluctuating miles overhead, yet utterly silent to the human ear. It’s as if some higher powers are communicating with each other in some unknown, beautiful language, and all you can do is stand and stare. Knowing that they originate from Earth’s interaction with the solar wind gives you an indescribable feeling of being connected to the cosmos. Even the most stunning photographs of the lights littering the internet searches cannot get across the fact that when you experience them first-hand, they look and feel 3-dimensional. It’s a spiritual experience. And a cold one.
Go, see them, and feel connected.
Thanks to my girlfriend Jen for the photo. Read her travel blog here.
*Disclaimer: this blog post is for entertainment purposes only and any opinions contained therein do not necessarily represent those of the author.