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Fall Aurora Watch
"When the mirrie dancers play, they are like to slay"
The night sky beckons! In Scottish folklore the Northern Lights are known as the Na Fir Chlis – “the Nimble Men” or "The Merry Dancers" to describe the constant shimmering and dancing waves of light caused by energetic particles from the sun reacting with the earth's magnetic fields near the poles . It was Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei who coined the name "aurora borealis" in 1619, after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas. Storytellers of old described the aurora as evidence of an epic fight amongst sky warriors or fallen angels. According to one legend, blood from the wounded fell to earth and spotted the “bloodstones” (a variety of jasper) found in the Hebrides. In other cultures, the North American Inuit call the auroras "aqsarniit" or football players, believing they result from spirits of the dead playing football with the head of a walrus! The Vikings thought the phenomenon was light reflecting off the armor of the Valkyrie, the supernatural maidens who brought warriors into the afterlife. Aurora Borealis season in northern polar latitudes (Alaska, northern Canada, Scotland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Siberia) runs from August-thru-April with some of the peak observation windows happening in the months of September and March! This beautiful tartan reflects the variety of striking colours of the aurora's shimmering light. Check your favourite aurora forecast site tonight! 🔭 ✨ 💙 💚 💜
September and October are some of the best fall months to view the northern lights.
Their southern counterpart, which light up the Antarctic skies in the Southern Hemisphere, are known as the aurora australis.
The British Geological Survey, Aurorawatch UK and US body Space Weather Prediction Centre all monitor heightened opportunities of spotting the aurora due to activity on the surface of the sun.
The aurora is caused by the interaction of solar wind - a stream of charged particles escaping the sun - and Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere. The colors most often associated with the aurora borealis are pink, green, yellow, blue, violet, and occasionally orange and white. Typically, when the particles collide with oxygen, yellow and green are produced. Interactions with nitrogen produce red, violet, and occasionally blue colors.
Auroras have been observed throughout history. Galileo Galilei and Pierre Gassendi witnessed a lights display in 1621, and a reference to the northern lights was made by Gregory of Tours way back in the 500s. The earliest datable account is on a Babylonian clay tablet that recorded observations made by the official astronomers of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the night of 12/13 March 567 BCE of an unusual “red glow.” But the earliest of all might be 30,000-year-old cave paintings that some believe to represent the aurora. The lights were observed and commented on by Benjamin Franklin in 1778 and Edmond Halley, of comet fame, in 1716.
This tartan, by designer Carol A.L. Martin, was inspired by the dance of lights of the Aurora Borealis.
To keep track of aurora sightings in the UK, click the beautiful aurora.