There’s no better conversation starter than the auroral displays that frequent earth’s polar regions. They’re as beautiful as any priceless work of art, and like all great art, they have something to tell us.
Don’t book a room anywhere near Santa’s workshop if your goal is to observe the northern lights overhead. The aurora usually appear as a ring around the earth’s magnetic poles, called an auroral oval, with a diameter of about 2,500 miles. Consider a visit to Alaska, Denmark, or Iceland if it’s straight-up amazing light shows you’re looking for.
To mid-latitude dwellers in both the northern and southern hemispheres, the aurora may seem strange, even supernatural. A rare sight in the lower forty-eight, these dazzling displays nonetheless send a powerful message to the people of Earth by way of our northern brothers and sisters – that there’s more to our relationship with the sun than a nice afternoon at the beach. Much more.
The International Space Station was 253 miles above British Columbia on January 20, 2016 when a crewmember captured this breathtaking image of an auroral display over northern Canada. Barely five percent of the world’s population has directly observed an aurora. It’s not that they are terribly rare events, it’s just that they only form where the solar wind interacts with the poles of Earth’s magnetosphere. It’s pretty cold there, and for some reason everybody wants to live where it’s warm.
Believe it or not the ISS was over the North/South Carolina state line when a crew member captured this shot of the Northern Lights on August 3, 2016. That’s Lake Erie on the US/Canada border in the foreground, flanked by Detroit to the left, Toronto to the right, and Cleveland at bottom center. The Auroral display itself is several hundred miles further north. A good telephoto lens at an altitude of 250 miles can really shrink the world.