What Causes the Northern Lights
The northern lights in the Northern Hemisphere are amazing natural spectacles that are often seen in the sky during evening hours and are common in higher latitudes. The northern lights are atmospheric phenomena but not the same as other phenomena of the night sky like comets and meteors.
What Causes the Northern Lights
Although northern lights appear in the atmosphere, they are not particularly alien but result of extra-terrestrial. The Sun’s outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, consisting of hot ionized gas (plasma) drives a particle flux of protons and electrons (solar wine) away from the Sun.
Some of these high-energy particles strike Earth’s magnetic field and follow magnetic field lines down into Earth’s atmosphere at the North and South magnetic poles.
Earth’s atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen and oxygen. Once the solar particles reach Earth’s atmosphere, they collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen, stripping away their electrons to leave ions in excited states. These ions emit radiation at various wavelengths, creating the characteristic colors. Collisions of solar particles with oxygen produce red or green light; collisions with nitrogen produce green and purple light.
To summarize, When the solar wind gets past the magnetic field and travels towards the Earth, it runs into the atmosphere. The atmosphere is like a big blanket of gas surrounding our planet, which contains lots of different particles that make up the air that we breathe and help to protect us from harmful radiation from the Sun.
As the protons and electrons from the solar wind hit the particles in the Earth’s atmosphere, they release energy – and this is what causes the northern lights
6 Incredible Facts about the Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights is something that anyone who calls himself a traveler must experience at least once because this show of dancing green and pink lights is something few have the privilege of witnessing.
But if you are still not sure of traveling to the top of the world to see «The Northern Lights,» here are six facts that will surely convince you.
The lights are small particles.
If you’ve ever heard of The Northern Lights, then you’ve also wondered, what is it that makes the sky so colorful?
What we see is a physical reaction between different particles. Many storms from inside the sun, and sometimes these air currents are so strong that they travel through space to Earth.
These winds carry many types of particles, which, when in contact with the Earth’s atmosphere cause a reaction that causes green and pink flashes.
Colors depend on gas and distance.
Thousands of years ago, it was thought that the colors of the Northern Lights represented different types of supernatural entities. But today, science has found the cause of the peculiar neon colors seen in the sky.
According to NASA scientists, the colors we see are chemical reactions when elements of our atmosphere and solar gases come into contact.
The magnitude of this chemical reaction determines the tonality of the lights, that is, the stronger the collision of the elements, the stronger the intensity of the color.
Some people can listen to the northern lights.
In some cultures, it was believed that the lights were spirits that came down to Earth to give messages to loved ones.
Today, many people claim to have heard whispers while admiring the “Northern Lights.” This may seem unusual; scientists have found that these lights can create sounds.
Listening to the Northern Lights is extremely rare, but there are times when the solar winds collide with the atmosphere with great power. This causes explosions, which from the ground are perceived as radio static or “small whispers.”
You can see them better with a camera.
Normally, the Northern Lights can be perceived without having to use some equipment.
However, these are the product of reactions between microparticles, which are not captured by the human eye. So we cannot see the details of this phenomenon.
But don’t worry, as a simple digital camera is all you need to reveal the secrets of space.
You don’t have to travel to the North Pole to see them.
The Northern Lights can be seen from multiple points around the planet.
Surprisingly, these lights can be seen from almost every continent in the world. This gives travelers a wide variety of options to see them. However, many adventurers claim that one of the best places to see the Northern Lights is Whitehorse in Canada.
The northern and southern lights are the same.
One of the most amazing things about the Northern Lights is that thousands of people can see the same thing in different parts of the world.
Multiple NASA studies have revealed that the images projected in the north of our atmosphere and those that can be seen at the other end of the planet are the same.
According to scientists, this is because, like the sky, the lights are reflected in our ocean, causing a “mirror effect.” What makes the images that we see at the North Pole are the same as those that can be seen on clear nights at the South Pole.
Luckily, today, many accessible options allow us to observe how the sky is painted in incredible green and pink shades.
All you have to do is pick a destination and venture north to see the incredible Northern Lights.
10 tips for photographing the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are one of the most coveted phenomena by any nature photographer, and photographing them can become an adventure. Do not forget that it is unnecessary to have the best camera or the best equipment, but everything is in creativity. In this article, I will share 10 tips that will help you take the best photographs of the Northern Lights anywhere in the world.
It is important that to see the northern lights you plan your expedition/trip in advance, it is not about waiting every night for it to come out, and you can contemplate it, but about being patient and being there at the right time. Sure, Mother Nature always surprises us, and things don’t always go as planned, but if you organize your trip in advance and prepare perfectly, the chances of observing this phenomenon in the best way will be greater.
Climate, place and season
The places where it is possible to see the Northern Lights are mainly in the areas closest to the Arctic Circle, where it is almost always very cold. It will be important that you check the weather and temperature in advance, so that you can prepare yourself with the appropriate clothing and be outside, in the cold weather, as long as possible, capturing the aurora.
It is also important that you make sure the sky is clear, and it is not the rainy season.
On the other hand, the Northern Lights occur throughout the year, but this does not mean that the season to see them can be on any date, there are months in which there is little or no visibility, this is due to the “midnight sun” that lights up 24 hours a day, and that occurs during the summer months.
The best season is on the dates of the equinoxes, in the months of September and March, when the sun is located in the plane of the celestial equator, although it can also be seen during the months between October and April, depending on the area in which you find.
The phase of the moon is another important aspect to consider. This luminous phenomenon is visible even with a full moon, but to get the most out of it and get the most vivid photographs, it would be better to go when there is a new moon to avoid light pollution, and the auroras can shine in their maximum splendor.
Sometimes, depending on the moon’s date and position, even if it is another moon phase, it does not rise above the horizon, so it is also possible to have a dark sky even if it is not a new moon.
Review the Northern Lights activity
The prediction of the northern lights is like the meteorological climate, it is not always correct but, even so, it helps us to know if what probability of seeing them we will have that night.
There are different resources for checking the prediction of the lights depending on where you are. Activity is measured in an index of KP values on a scale from 0 to 9, with 9 being the value with the highest visibility.
To avoid camera shake, I recommend using the timer function with two seconds on the tripod, because even if you think not, the camera has some movement when we press the shutter button.
If you don’t have one, you can improvise one by leaving the camera on a stable surface and placing a rock, log, or something that works as a support.
Camera with Manual mode function
The camera you use must have this function so that you can manipulate and play with the different settings that I recommend later in this article.
Wide angle lens
So that you can capture a wide sky and as much of the lights as possible, it is recommended to use wide angle format lenses, such as a 16mm lens. Any lens between 10 and 24mm should work very well to capture a wide sky.
The northern lights change their brightness, color, and movement during the night, that is why the settings you will use will have to change depending on how the lights go in the sky.
RAW is the format that captures as much information as possible in an image, so that when editing your images, you can get the best color quality. It is highly recommended that you shoot in RAW, since the .jpg format does not save as much information as this.
Aperture is what controls the amount of light that passes through the lens, the smaller the f / stop number, the larger the lens aperture.
Although an aperture of 3.5 or 4 also works, the most recommended for photographing the Northern Lights is 2.8 or less.
A speed of between 5 and 25 seconds will be ideal for capturing the lights. If the lights are moving fast, try to use a speed between 5 and 7 seconds, the flow is calmer, use one between 10 and 25 seconds, do the test, and see which one is the best for you.
The ISO controls the camera’s sensitivity towards light. You must choose it depending on the speed you are going to use and the intensity of visibility of the auroras.
Start by doing a test with a number between 400 and 800, if you see that the photo is still very dark, increase the ISO to 1,200 and try again, and so on.
Remember that it is not about taking the best photo in the first shot, but about shooting a thousand times until you find the best photo.