The Nuts and Bolts of Aurora Borealis

Aurora HouseAfter spending two days in Rovaniemi it was time to move on E-75 direction North Cape. Many years ago there was a project called the Santa’s Road, we saw signs along the E-75 that testified this. Since E-75 forks towards Vadsø and Kirkenes instead of North Cape we named the road between Rovaniemi and North Cape the Santa’s Road.

The Diamonds of the Arctic tour 2014 had started brilliantly in Rovaniemi.  We had achieved more than we had planned. Now, Angelo and I were looking for the Northern Lights. And, I knew where to look. On any day of the year there can be Northern Lights in the sky. However, in early August the nights still don’t go into dusk and it is impossible to see the spectacle. The only time you can actually see the Northern Lights is late August until mid-April.

Sodankylä is an important science town roughly 130 kilometers north of Rovaniemi. By the little dammed lake Orajärvi, some 24 kilometer southeast of Sodankylä, is the small company Arctic Academy. It was established by scientist Esa Turunen and his wife Raili to light up the Northern Lights winter tourism throughout the Arctic.

Host on this sunny day, Ms. Riikka Maijanen guided us in the petit Aurora House. With scientific precision she updated our Northern Lights world.

When electrical particles from the Sun enter our atmosphere, they collide with oxygen and hydrogen molecules. When the particles, atoms and molecules collide the oxygen and hydrogen will get extra energy. They cannot store this energy; it is released as glowing Northern Lights.

It is possible to see the Northern Lights around the Northern Hemisphere and also in the Southern Hemisphere (Southern Lights). Normally, the aurora oval under which we can see is 2000 km around the magnetic North (South) Pole

However, as happened in March 2015, when the solar activity increases the magnetic activity will be larger. The aurora oval will enlarge, and we can see the Northern Lights as south as southern Europe.

The last few years have been good Northern Lights Years. Is increased solar activity also a part of the alarmingly smaller Arctic Sea Ice?  Is a minor Ice Age, as we had 160 years ago, on its way?

The latest prediction is that we might go into a period of less solar activity, less Northern Lights, says Riikka.

In order to see the Northern Lights conditions on Earth must be good. Preferably, rural areas with less street light (light pollution) are better spots to watch constellations, Geminid meteor showers, shooting stars, comets and Northern Lights. Clouds are a turn off. The late evening 10 pm – Midnight – 2/3 am have been the better hours for Northern Lights.

At the Arctic Academy you can get a 45 minutes multimedia Northern Lights presentation all year by the expert host.

Facts are for the head, stories are for the heart. Riikka mastered legends as well.

In the next blog post, I will heat up the Northern Lights with some hot folklore.

Aurora House

Aurora House

Aurora House

Aurora House

Riikka illustrates the process of the Northern Lights


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Posted in NATURE, SANTA'S ROAD, Sodankylä

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