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Spirits in the Sky

Today, using satellites and specialized instruments, we can detect and analyze events in the atmosphere, and understand those charged particles travelling on the solar wind that cause the Northern Lights. But up until about 100 years ago - nobody knew exactly what the auroras were!

Every northern culture had legends about the auroras, often associating them with life after death.

There were many different myths to explain their origins. The Inuit attached spiritual significance to the lights, believing them to represent the souls of their unborn children or the torches of long-departed ancestors.

In days of old, auroral appearances were used to forecast the weather, but the predictions were often contradictory. In Labrador, the colored lights forecast fine weather, while in Greenland, they were a sign of southerly winds and storms.

So now we know - they're just itty-bitty charged up particles clashing with gases in our atmoshpere! Hey... who knew?!

PICTURE: Woodcut by Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen.

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Arctic Library: Northern Lights
Environment, Sky, Inuit
Links: Northern Lights, Environment, Inuit
What Causes the Northern Lights?
Arctic Sunrise/Sunset


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A Guide to Arctic Sunrise and Sunset GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?

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