Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Northern Lights

 See Terje Sorgjerd's video.

by Robert L. Gisel

 While Alaska has its reputation as viewing grounds for the enthralling phenomena of the Northern Lights, any of the far north countries in the winter will do. In this case the video is of Russian Northern Lights, which they can now share with us since the Iron curtain came down. Alaska has a lot in common with its former owners including the whole array of Arctic climate phenomena.

 Alaska doesn't have a monopoly on the Northern Lights as these can be viewed from any of the far north countries. Alaska was once Russian territory so sharing this video from there is apropos. The photographer Terje Sorgjerd shot the well executed video in Russia. The light show itself is exceptional, one of the best I have ever seen even though this is a compilation of a week's nights.

 The Aurora Borealis, known as the Northern Lights, come out to play most often during the equinox, far north and very cold climes. Terje says it is 70 degree latitude north and -25 degrees Celsius. The northernmost tip of  Alaska is about latitude 68 while Arctic circle is at 66 and change. Minus 25 Celsius is only minus 14 Fahrenheit, which is, to me, is an average winter day in Anchorage.

 The Northern Lights are basically electrical storms outside the atmosphere of earth. For the layman you could think of it as a sort of sheet lightening in the ionosphere around the magnetic poles. Like a magnet pulls in metal shavings, the magnetic poles of the earth draw in toward the north and south poles hot flashes of solar energy, called solar storms. In the magnetosphere, magnetic field of earth, this turns into a visible energy, basically colored light. In short, it's a hell of a show.

 This video of the Lights I would visually date in early winter, October or November, or near the end. Notice that the sun in the first video sequence moves along the horizon, that is to say, it doesn't sink it a perpendicular arc as we are used to in the States. There is some daylight but not a very long day. The tag says one month ago. March.

 Many a night in Alaska I would find myself out on the lawn in shirt sleeves gawking at the aurora with the neighbors doing the same. It is an unforgettable phenomena to say the least. Nostalgic, I'd have to say.

 Google search reveals the Northern Lights is also an American Progressive bluegrass band with as many fluctuations in its make up as the Alaska Northern Lights.

 Shooting star and moon watching have become so mundane by comparison I'd recommend a trip north just to see the Northern Lights for yourself.


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