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  • Johan Wildhagen / Visit Norway

Northern Lights

The stunning natural phenomenon in our sky is the northern lights or guovssahas as it is called in Sami. Guovssahas is literally translated as ‘the light that can be heard’.

Facts about the Northern Lights
There are scientists who study the northern lights, so we can have a better understanding of the phenomenon. The following is a short explanation of the nature of the northern lights. It is known for certain that northern lights are affected by the sun.  Just as on earth, there are winds on the sun. These winds, called solar winds, send out a stream of electrically charged particles. Some of these particles are sent towards the earth and collide with gases in its atmosphere. It is these collisions that cause the northern lights. There is, in fact, another pole close to the North Pole - the North Magnetic Pole. This pole attracts electric particles from the sun and causes the northern lights that lie in an oval ring over the magnetic pole. This ring is called the auroral oval. The northern lights are visible in the areas located beneath the ring. The light may appear in various colours including yellow, green, red and blue. Different gases produce different colours.

The northern lights are commonly associated with the winter season, though they actually occur throughout the year. However, they are only visible when it is dark and the air is clear. Many say that the northern lights appear when it is cold outside, but this is not exactly right. They are visible any time there is a clear sky. Usually, however, clear skies do correlate with cold weather. Hence the northern lights can be seen on any night with a clear sky, and it has nothing to do with the air temperature.

Mystery behind the Northern Lights
According to the Sami, our ancestors live in the northern lights. When they are blazing in the sky, you are not allowed to whistle, sing or hardly make any sound. The northern lights should be respected.

Traditionally, the northern lights were perceived by the Sami as a supernatural force. They were considered a god just like the sun, the moon and other natural phenomena were.
The northern lights are depicted on rune drums (ceremonial drums) of the noaides, the Sami shamans.

This tradition of respect for the northern lights is not unique to the Sami people. It is common among most of the people living in northern areas where the phenomenon can be observed.