• Ashinsa de Silva Wijeyeratne

When the sky dances

Updated: Feb 16, 2018

From whales and foxes, to Valkyries and Gods, the lights that appear in the Northern night sky have been a source of wonderment for centuries.


The Aurora Borealis, commonly called the Northern Lights, is a phenomenon featured in the myths and folklore of many countries. A sight to behold, it blazes up the sky with dancing lights of green, yellow, pink, and purple. It feels as though you’ve stepped into a dream, as it is hard to imagine that something so mesmerizing and ethereal exists.

The term 'Aurora Borealis' stems from the Greek words ‘Aurora’ and ‘Boreas,’ which mean 'sunrise' and 'wind' respectively. This phenomenon is caused by the interaction between charged particles and the elements in the upper atmosphere of the earth. The charged particles hurtle towards the earth from the sun at high speeds, following paths generated by the earth’s natural magnetic field. Although most particles are deflected,the weak magnetic field at the poles of the earth allow more particles to enter the atmosphere at these locations.

When the particles collide with gaseous elements in the atmosphere, they create excess energy, which is released in the form of light. The colour of the produced light depends on the element and its location in the atmosphere. Streaks of green, yellow, and red are commonly seen due to the collision between the particles and oxygen, while those with nitrogen emit blue/purple light. The lights in the sky appear to ‘dance and flow’ due to the ever-changing atmospheric currents.

Tromsø, a city in the north of Norway, is considered to be one of the best locations to catch a glimpse of the Aurora. For the best views, I’d suggest a 30-minute ride out of the city, away from all the lights.For the more adventurous, Camp Tamok, situated in the mountains, which is an hour and a half out of Tromsø, allows a magical viewing experience amidst an uninhabited snowy landscape.

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