I was transfixed. Every northern culture has legends about the aurora. One Inuit myth holds that the northern lights are torches held in the hands of Spirits seeking the souls of those who have just died, to lead them over the abyss terminating the edge of the world.
Another holds that the lights are the visible spirits of unborn children playing ball in the heavens. The scientific explanation for the lights may be less poetic, though still fascinating. Auroras are born of the sun, when large explosions and flares throw great quantities of particles into space, carried outward by the solar wind. As they interact with the upper layers of the atmosphere, approximately 60 to miles above our heads, the energy that is then released appears as a luminous, moving glow, typically visible in the night sky in the polar zones at particular times of the year.
Each gas gives out a characteristic color when bombarded. Excited oxygen atoms emit yellow-green light, the most commonly observed color. Ionized molecular nitrogen emits blue and violet light, colors to which the human eye is less sensitive.
At lower altitudes, excited molecules of nitrogen and oxygen glow with a vivid red. These three primary colors together produce the hues of a typical aurora.
They should always be answered in a whispering voice. Youths dance to the aurora. The heavenly spirits are called selamiut, "sky-dwellers," those who live in the sky. Akasofu, Alaska Geographic, Volume 6, Number 2, All of the Aurora images on this page are copyrighted Jan Curtis and are intended for non-commercial, educational uses. Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick. Hey Rock 'N' Roll. The Boy from New York City. Long Train Running. My Best Friend's Girl.
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