The beautiful northern lights

Throughout history, the northern lights (aurora borealis) have fascinated people across the far north. From Alaska to Iceland to Finland to Siberia, the northern lights have been woven into legends and folklore, then passed down from generation to generation. In Canada, the northern lights are important to the teachings and practices of First Nations people. For example, in Manitoba, Cree and Ojibway teachings share the belief that the lights are “spirits of the ancestors celebrating life, reminding us that we are all part of creation. Their dancing forms a pathway for the souls as they travel to the next world.”

Looking up into the night sky, it’s easy to believe that the lights are otherworldly—and, in a way, they are. Those dancing lights are actually the product of solar wind, which streams off the sun in all directions. Solar wind is made up of charged particles, and when this plasma hits the Earth and sufficiently disturbs the magnetosphere—bam! Light show!

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