Check out our night sky photo gallery to see more aurora borealis photos.
The Aurora Borealis
The aurora borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, are radiant shimmering colors that sporadically light up the night sky and have fascinated mankind for ages. Aurora comes from the Latin word for sunrise and borealis mean to the north.
What Causes the Northern Lights?The Earth is constantly being bombarded with debris, radiation, and other magnetic waves from space. Most of the time, the Earth's own magnetic field does an excellent job of deflecting these potentially harmful rays and particles.
When charged particles from the Sun encounter the Earth's magnetosphere, the particles are deflected by magnetosphere's spiraling motion around the field lines. This deflection slows the particles streaming from the Sun, causing them to flow around the Earth much as water in a stream is diverted by a rock.
Sometimes the particles penetrate the Earth's magnetosphere and collide with nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our atmosphere. Thus releases photon energy in the form of amazing aurora lights. The color of the aurora depends on which atom is struck, and the altitude of the collision.
What You Will See
When to View
Solar storms on our sun send streams of particles toward the Earth which can increase the intensity of the northern lights. You can monitor the levels of solar storms by searching the Internet for sites that offer "aurora forecasts". One such site is provided by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast. Best viewing occurs when the arrival of the solar radiation and particles corresponds with an evening when moonlight is at a minimum and the weather outside is clear.
Northern Lights at VoyageursLocated on the Canadian border, Voyageurs National Park offers visitors some of the best conditions to view the night skies. Surrounded by miles of lakes and wilderness area, the skies above Voyageurs are free of the excessive, misdirected, and obtrusive artificial light produced by the large urban cities across
Suggested locations to view the northern lights in Voyageurs National Park:
If you are unable to find a good spot, you can always check out our night sky photo gallery to see more aurora borealis photos.
Last updated: April 29, 2016