What Are The Northern Lights?

What Are The Northern Lights?

Different cultures around the world had myths to explain the dancing Northern Lights. Many saw the lights as a sign from their ancestors, or from benevolent spirits. Some indigenous peoples believed that the lights were the spirits of animals they had hunted, including beluga whales and seals. Other stories were not as rosy: the Fox tribe of Wisconsin viewed the aurora as an omen of war from the ghosts of enemies they had slain.

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Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Galileo named the Northern Lights "Aurora Borealis," which means "dawn of the north" in Latin. (0:35)

  • 2

    Most of the charged particles that the sun exudes are repelled by Earth's magnetosphere, but some do get through at the planet's poles. (1:55)

  • 3

    The Northern Lights are most vibrant during solar storms. (3:04)

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