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The Northern Lights, known as Aurora borealis, are bright “dancing” lights of the aurora in the north. The lights are a result of the sun’s electrically charged particles colliding and entering the atmosphere of planet Earth. The lights can be viewed above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. The lights appear in various colors but pink and pale green are the common colors.
See the fact file below for more information on the Northern Lights or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Northern Lights worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The word “aurora” comes from Aurora, the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn.
- Aurora announced the coming of the sun as she travelled from east to west.
- Aurora is also the Greek term for north wind.
- The word aurora was first used as a literary device by Ancient Roman poets to refer to dawn and the colored lights against the dark sky.
- The lights seen in the northern hemisphere is called Aurora borealis meaning “dawn of the north”.
- The lights in the southern hemisphere are called Aurora australis meaning “dawn of the south”.
- The features of the aurora borealis and the aurora australis are almost identical and they change simultaneously too.
- The lights appear in various forms: from scattered clouds to ripples of curtains, from shooting rays to light patches.
CAUSE OF NORTHERN LIGHTS
- Simply put, the lights are caused by excited electrons and the Earth’s magnetic field.
- The color of the lights depends on the type of gaseous particles colliding.
- The most common color of the lights is pale green which is produced by oxygen molecules approximately 60 miles above the Earth.
- Red auroral lights are rare and produced by oxygen located up to 200 miles above the Earth.
- Blue or purple auroral lights are produced by nitrogen particles.
- A suspected potential connection between the northern lights and sunspots was made in the late 1800s.
- Research done in the 1950s confirmed that the lights are from the electrons and protons from the sun.
- The sun’s extremely high temperature causes explosive and recurrent collisions between gas molecules.
- When the sun rotates, the charged particles are “thrown” off the sun’s atmosphere and through holes in the magnetic field.
- The electrons and protons are then blown by the solar wind towards the earth then deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field.
- Because of the relatively weak magnetic field of the Earth’s poles, the charged particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with gaseous particles.
- The end result is the emission of lights that appear to “dance.”
- The lights generally extend from 80 kilometers up to 640 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
- Aurora, the goddess of dawn, is popular in Roman mythology but many other legends about the lights exist.
- In medieval times, the light displays were perceived as signals for imminent famine or war.
- The Maori of New Zealand and northern people of North America and Europe believed that the lights are reflected from campfires or torches.
- The Inuit people of Alaska shared a belief that the lights are actually the spirits of the animals they hunted and killed.
- Other aboriginals believe that the lights are spirits of aboriginal people.
- In Wisconsin, the Menominee Indians believed that the lights indicated the location of spirits of great, giant hunters called Manabai´wok.
WHERE TO WATCH THE LIGHTS
- The lights occur near the magnetic poles.
- Both the auroras can be viewed in the northern or southern hemisphere.
- The lights are often seen as an irregularly shaped oval over each magnetic pole.
- Research has shown that most of the time, the northern and southern lights are mirror images of each other.
- The northern and southern lights occur at the same time and with similar colors and forms.
- The best locations to watch the lights are Iceland, southern Greenland, northern Norway, northwestern Canada, Alaska, and northern Siberia.
- They can also be viewed as far south as New Orleans in the western hemisphere.
- The aurora australis is concentrated around Antarctica and the southern Indian Ocean so they are not seen as often as the aurora borealis.
- An area where there is light pollution is not the best place to watch the lights.
BEST TIME TO WATCH
- Winter in northern areas is a good season to view the northern lights.
- During winter, the nights are longer and the sky is clearer, which provides a better atmosphere for the lights to be seen.
- Midnight is the best time to watch the dancing northern lights.
- Scientists and astronomers have learned that the activity of the auroras is cyclic.
- The activity of the auroras peaks approximately every 11 years.
- The last peak period was in 2013.
Northern Lights Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Northern Lights across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Northern Lights worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Northern Lights, known as Aurora borealis, which are bright “dancing” lights of the aurora in the north. The lights are a result of the sun’s electrically charged particles colliding and entering the atmosphere of planet Earth. The lights can be viewed above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. The lights appear in various colors but pink and pale green are the common colors.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Northern Lights Facts
- Quick Questions
- Legends of the Lights
- Northern Lights Crossword
- Aurora Formation
- Best Places To Watch
- Aurora or Not?
- Best Time To See
- Light Pollution Dictionary
- Northern Poem
- Lights Collage
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Link will appear as Northern Lights Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 17, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.