As summer ebbs away, the gloom is relieved by the bewitching greens, purples, pinks and reds of the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, which flicker and pulse across the winter sky.
Many a high-latitude tale was born while watching the display: the lights were the Sami, out-looking for reindeer, or sparks crackling from a fox’s fur as it ran across the sky, or even the spirits of the restless dead.
The scientific explanation is no less astonishing. The lights are caused by streams of charged particles – “solar wind” – that flare into space from our sun. When the wind comes into contact with the earth’s magnetic field, it is drawn towards the poles where its electric charge agitates particles of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, making them glow.
Solar activity follows an 11-year cycle, peaking in 2011-12. The displays during that period was even more spectacular, and was witnessed in areas that don’t usual experience these mesmeric light displays.
The Northern Lights Festival 2015 in Tromsoe is from January 23 to February 1.