Aurora Borealis

Posted by Serena

If you spend a winter in Fairbanks, it is almost a guarantee that you will witness the northern lights. The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are a natural phenomenon that light up the midnight sky with stellar colors.

What exactly is the aurora?

The northern lights originate on the surface of the sun when a cloud of gaseous particles are ejected into space and carried by the solar wind. It takes nearly three days for the mass of gasses to arrive to the earth. As it nears the earth’s atmosphere, it collides with the earth’s magnetic field. When these electrically charged particles enter the magnetic field, they generate currents towards the north and south magnetic poles. The lights tend to band around the magnetic pole and the larger amount of charged particles means the bigger the band around the pole. As the band of particles begins to grow in size around the magnetic north pole, the further south the majestic northern lights can be spotted.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute is a great resource if one is interested in viewing the northern lights because they publish an Aurora Forecast every day.

On Friday, September 26th the forecast was “Active”. Looking out my dorm window on campus, I could see dancing green bands overhead so I decided to go aurora hunting, armed with my camera. I haven’t had much experience photographing the Aurora but I did not leave disappointed! 

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