Brrr! Even though I dressed in the warmest layers I own, I still shivered as I stepped out of the bus into the cold air. I wondered, “How am I going to survive this night?” My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness as I trudged across the packed snow to join the group of stargazers carrying iphones.
What was a Floridian like me doing miles above the Arctic Circle in Maze, Norway? I was searching for the Northern Lights, of course.
Here is how the evening unfolded….
About fifteen minutes after my arrival, a gasp went up from the small crowd. “Look!” A guy pointed toward the western sky, where a faint mist appeared.
Someone cried out, “It’s beginning!”
A few minutes later the mist rose higher and began to vibrate. Unlike a cloud, the mist began to glow and shimmer. That’s when I realized I was actually looking at lights.
I continued to hold up my iphone 12 and snap photos. The camera captured the colors I couldn’t see with my naked eye. It seemed magical!
The dancing lights changed into a new shape which reminded me of a paper airplane. The plane soon changed into a luminous green flying V. Wow!
I blinked and the flying V transformed into a singular light which streamed down, down, down to the earth below.
Everyone cheered! What could be better? Some of us had traveled thousands of miles to see this. We endured numerous regulations put in place by our governments due to Covid. We stood outside in fourteen degree temperatures. We felt like this light show was our reward. Indeed, it was worth it all!
Was I looking at a vapor? A light? What are the Northern Lights?
- The Northern Lights are caused by activity on the surface of the sun.
- Solar storms give out clouds of electrically charged particles.
- The particles are drawn toward the north and south poles where the earth’s magnetic field is stronger.
- Upon entry to earth’s atmosphere the particles heat up and begin to glow.
- The unique drapery like folds of the particles are caused by lines of force in the Earth’s magnetic field.
Forget the legends and stories of the ancients… science can explain everything, including the various colors. Different gases give off different colors when they are heated.
- Green is due to oxygen in the atmosphere.
- Purple, blue, or pink, are due to nitrogen.
- Red is due to very high altitude oxygen and is only present when the particles are very energetic.
I hope my scientific explanation hasn’t destroyed any ideas you might have about the mysterious Northern Lights. In my opinion, the phenomenon is still more art than science.
In nearby Alta, a church reflects the beauty of the Aurora. Known as the Cathedral of Northern Lights, the building is a landmark, and serves as a local parish.
Winters are long and dark in this part of the world, and the long bright windows lift the spirits of the community.
The interior of the church inspires worshippers to look up toward the heavens.
A bronze figure represents Christ’s sacrifice for mankind’s redemption.
Dear Reader, if you have not experienced the Northern Lights, add them to your bucket list. You will not be disappointed. In closing, I want to thank Herb Burton for coming up with the idea to book a trip to Norway in January. Viking Cruises offers a wonderful tour. What are you waiting for?