Solar wind, Sun, Earth, Aurora Borealis aka Northern Lights
Our theme this year in reading for the winter reading program is tales from the far north. Now, if you guys go far enough, north you’re going to see a wonderful site, it’s called the northern lights and they are also known as the aurora borealis. And if you look at this picture, while it is very beautiful, these lights actually blow across the sky and they don’t show up everywhere. We don’t see them very often down here in virginia okay, but you will see them in certain spots we’re going to talk about where now first we’re going to talk about. How are they made right? So the solar wind is a stream of particles that comes off from the sun right and as these particles blow off the sun, especially with the solar flares they’re going to head towards our planet, they get hit by a magnetic shield. They go up towards the north pole or the south pole. We have lights at the south pole too right and they’re going to hit um things in our atmosphere that are going to cause the northern lights all right. So as these particles come through and you can see them hitting the this – is the magnetic field and they’re directed towards the north pole or the south pole and they’re going to hit again the certain particles and i’m going to show you what they will actually do. But i’m also going to tell you they show up between late august and early april.
They can be seen on clear nights in sweden, norway, finland, iceland, canada and alaska, and can last anywhere from several minutes to several hours right now. You just saw pictures that they were different colors. They can be pink and purple and green, mostly green, sometimes blue, right and we’ll talk about a little bit. Why that why we don’t see them here first, i want to show you a little video. This is all about auroras all right, so why are they formed? Okay? Maybe because the earth forgets to switch off the lights nah. Our sun is a great burning star. It expels tons of solar wind into space, so the wind consists of super hot charged particles which are fatal if they touch it. So should we use a big umbrella nah, but there’s a magnetic field around the earth acts like a shield and it protects us. The field lines appear to emerge from the south pole and go to the north pole. Now, when the particles hit our magnetic field, most of them get deflected, but some of them flow along the earth’s magnetic field lines to the poles and reach our upper atmosphere. And these particles collide with nitrogen, and this causes them to give off various colors of light, which are called a boris all right, so let’s see what we’re going to see here all right. So what causes the colors in the uh northern lights? Remember? We talked about how there were different, colors and let’s, see which ones they are okay, so how, with your war, was formed all right – and this picture again shows you that the sun’s going to admit the charged particles, it hits the magnetic field, but then the charged Particles collide with different uh gases in our atmosphere and the different gases are going to make different colors okay they’re, going to hit oxygen they’re going to hit nitrogen they’re going to hit it at low levels in that atmosphere, they’re going to hit it at high atmosphere.
So again, if they’re hitting these little blue diamonds in this picture, they’re going to make purplish colors if they’re hitting the little pink ones they’re going to have green colors, this will show you the colors we most often see are going to be pink, green, yellow, blue Violet, mostly it’s, going to be green right when the particles collide with oxygen, yellow and green are made up interactions with nitrogen makes red violet and occasionally blue colors, all right. So now we’re going to talk a little bit about what are the um? What are the stories behind the aurora borealis, because people have always had stories about why these lights are there? So back in ancient greece and rome, these were the gods and the goddesses were causing them. Okay, the words of war borealis comes from the greek words. Aurora means sunrise, boreas means wind right and it looks like the wind is blowing these lights across the sky. Well, the ancient greeks believed that aurora was the sister of the sun and the moon, and that in the morning she’d raise her chariot across the sky. To tell her siblings that the dawn the day was dawning a new day was coming. The romans also said that aurora was the goddess of dorne and that she would ride her chariot across now. In ancient china, you right we’ve always heard legends of dragons. Well, those dragon legends started with the uh northern lights. They believed that the lights were a battle between the good and the evil dragons who breathed fire across the sky.
That kind of looks like one doesn’t it right: the norse mythology, those were the vikings right. Viking legends suggest that the lights were reflections from the shields and the armors of the valkyrie. Those were the women who decided whether or not the vikings died in battle. Another legend was that it was the bridge going from one side from the where the gods are to where the mortals were. So when the mortals died and they got to go to the viking heaven. That would be the bridge that they would cross right. It was called the bifrost bridge, but a really popular one, and i like this picture the finland myth. Okay, remember: finland was a really good place to go, see these things right. The finland uh finnish people think that the lights were caused by a firefox, and then he ran so quickly across the snow that his tail caused sparks to fly in the night, creating the aurora. In fact, the finished word for the northern lights. When they see it is reventola which translates as firefox now the indians in north america. They had a lot of different legends right. The crees believed that the auroras were the spirits of the dead who remained in the sky, trying to communicate with us right and the inuit tribes up in canada or alaska. I thought that they were the spirits of dead humans, playing a ball game using a walrus skull as the ball. Another tribe up in canada right on the nanovook island, told the same story, but they said it was the other way around.
They said it was walrus spirits playing ball with the skull of some unfortunate human. I don’t see that in the lights, though, do you all right? Europe had myths too. Okay, we don’t get to see them this far south on a regular basis, but sometimes we do people in france and italy. They didn’t see them very often so when they did see them, they thought it was a bad omen that it was signaling the outbreak of something from war to plague, to death right in scotland and england. The skies were said to be blazed red a few weeks before the uh french revolution started more recently and it’s, not really recently, because this was 1940s right. The northern lights were taken as omens of war and they were visible in london. Again, italy, um england, during germany’s, 19′ blitz, creek and in 1941 we saw them in ohio right, that’s, the united states on the day that japan attacked pearl harbor; okay, so they that was down below again, that was in the united states and they saw red skies. So they were taking it as a sign of war, bad omens. But you know what lewis and clark saw them too. Now, lewis and clark were exploring the louisiana purchase for thomas jefferson right back in the early 1800s, and they had to go all across the mississippi valley and they went all the way over towards oregon and washington state where those are now just to explore this land.
Now nicholas biddle had their journals because they kept journals as they did their walk, and he mentioned he quoted them. He said late at night, we were awakened by the sergeant on guard to see a beautiful phenomenon called the northern light along. The northern sky was a large space occupied by a light of a pale but brilliant white color, which rising from the horizon, extended itself to nearly 20 degrees, above it and after glittering. For some time its colors would be overcast and almost obscured. But again it would burst out with renewed beauty. Okay, so even lewis and clark remembered seeing them now, it was again was in the continental united states. Still it was up towards the canadian border, but you know they got to see them so right. Can we see the lights in virginia right now? This picture was taken on september, 8th 2017 in forest virginia. The northern lights can appear this far south when there’s a large solar flare right in a really big magnetic storm. So this had to have been a really big magnetic storm and it had been a big solar flow might have interfered with cell phone reception. Um cable tv stuff like that, because there was a lot of particles in the air and we could see them in virginia. Four years ago, all right so there’s a lot of stories back behind the northern lights um. If you guys are interested in trying to make your own, we will have a little all right so right here, it’s, a way that you guys can make your own northern lights.
We’Re not going to have these kits, though in the library. But if you want to try and make your own right, you can have colored tissue paper, white glue, mason jar, a little jelly jar will burp right or tomato sauce jar, an led tea light and pipe cleaners all right, and if you tear the things uh tail, The tissue paper into strips and you glue it onto the the jar and you just keep putting the glue don’t worry about it, because the glue is going to dry, clear and it’s just going to cover it. And then, if you want to add pipe cleaners around it to make like a handle, you can you put your led light on the in on the top and you can turn it on and it’ll glow through the uh it’ll glow through the tissue paper, all right. Okay, now i did not put on a pipe cleaner handle, but i do have this. I even drew nice little trees at the bottom of mine. Okay, then uh it’s a little too light too dark to see, but you can kind of see the colors growing glowing through there all right. So hopefully, you learned a little bit about northern lights and how they’re made – and you learned a little bit about the stories behind them again. People have been talking about the northern lights since 2600 bc and it’s only been recently that we’ve actually learned what the science is behind them so come on in join us.