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Aurora Borealis

“A bonza place! We’ll tell our mates about it.”
—KL, Normanhurst, Australia

The Aurora Borealis

Pierre Gassenti, a French scientist, saw the lights in the north in 1621 and named them Aurora after the Roman goddess of dawn and Boreas the god of the north wind, thus the Aurora Borealis.

The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, are seen on earth in the northern hemisphere usually at latitudes of 60 degrees are higher. Fairbanks, Alaska is located at 64 degrees north and is one of the premier places on earth to view the Aurora Borealis. The Aurora or the Northern Lights are naturally occurring phenomenal displays of colored lights appearing on earth. In the southern hemisphere of earth they are named Aurora Austral is, meaning southern.

The phenomenon of the Northern Lights occurs when highly charged electrons from the suns solar wind interact with elements in the earth’s atmosphere. Solar winds stream away from the sun at a rate of approximately one million miles per hour and reach the earth some forty hours later. The winds follow the magnetic force generated by the earth’s core and flow through a teardrop shape of highly charged electrical and magnetic fields.

As the electrons enter the earth’s upper atmosphere they encounter atoms of oxygen and nitrogen at distances from 20 to 200 miles above the earth’s surface. The color(s) of the aurora depends on which atom is present and the altitude of the meeting.

Green – oxygen up to 150 miles altitude

Red – oxygen above 150 miles altitude

Blue – nitrogen up to 60 miles altitude

Violet/Purple – nitrogen above 60 miles altitude

Often within a short viewing period multiple colors may be seen. The colors appear in what most refer to as a ribbon that waves and swirls across the night sky. From Fairbanks the Aurora Borealis is present 365 days a year. In order to be seen, the sky must be clear and it must be dark. Fairbanks is also known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun” which means that during summer months the sun shines almost 24 hours a day from the first of May to mid-August.

Links to the University of Alaska, Aurora Forecast in Fairbanks



763 7th Avenue,
Fairbanks, Alaska 99701

(907) 451-6649
Toll Free 1-888-451-6649
Fax (907) 474-8448
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