Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring is Aurora Season

For all you Northerners, NASA has good viewing news for you.

What are the signs of spring? They are as familiar as a blooming Daffodil, a songbird at dawn [SkyePuppy: Are they crazy? The mockingbird started singing at 2:09am last night and at 1:22am the night before.], a surprising shaft of warmth from the afternoon sun.

And, oh yes, don't forget the aurora borealis.

Spring is aurora season. For reasons not fully understood by scientists, the weeks around the vernal equinox are prone to Northern Lights. Canadians walking their dogs after dinner, Scandinavians popping out to the sauna, Alaskan Huskies on the Iditarod trail—all they have to do is look up and behold, green curtains of light dancing across the night sky. Spring has arrived!

This is a bit of a puzzle. Auroras are caused by solar activity, but the Sun doesn't know what season it is on Earth. Yet it seemed to know on March 1st when these lights erupted over Tromso, Norway:

"It was a very powerful outburst of Northern Lights," says photographer Bjorn Jorgensen. "The ground actually turned green!"

The NASA article goes into more detail on why we get the Northern Lights, including explaining that the magnetic ropes connecting the earth to the sun are favored in the spring.

So brave the cold at night for the next few weeks, and keep looking up.


paw said...

I've noted a couple auroa posts - you're a fan? Is that your Montana roots showing? I can't imaging you get any show whatsoever in SoCal, but you do seem to get around.

Me, I grew up in northern Minnesota near the Canadian border. Many of the better families in town had vacation property far north in Canada. I've spent many August weeks on an island outside of Kenora, Ontario, and I swear if you sit there long enough you can hear the northern lights. I'm a fan.

The lack of lights around these parts sometimes makes me think I'm living wrong. I'm at heart a northern man. If I have a change of fortune, that's where I'm buying an island.

I'm visiting relatives in Norway this summer, and though I wont get that far north. I'm hoping for a good show!

SkyePuppy said...


Yes, I'm a fan. I've seen them twice, once in Montana in 1974 or 1975 out the back of a school bus on the way home from a high school speech tournament.

The other time was around 1980 in Spokane. The weatherman on the news said, "The Northern Lights are putting on a show," so my husband and I went outside and stood looking up at the sky with only one other couple from our neighborhood.

There are few things that are breathtaking in the wonder of seeing them. The Northern Lights are one of those things. Glad you're a fan too.

Have you signed up at to get their email alerts? They usually send an email when auroras are expected and tell you what latitudes should be able to see them. That might help when you're in Norway.

paw said...

Well I'm going to now! Thanks!