Friday, July 19, 2024

Aurora Borealis: The Magnificent Northern Lights

Written By Suditi Shayana (Grade 12)

I first stumbled across a picture of Aurora Borealis when my aunt, who lives in a town on the outskirts of London, sent me a picture of the spectacular display in her sky. Obviously, I knew that the photograph I was awestruck by was indeed of the Northern Lights, but that was all I knew. Along with finding myself with a loss of words, I also found myself to be ashamed that I had been so blithe all along and never cared to figure out what Aurora Borealis exactly was. I subsequently decided to stop moping around and was determined to have an ‘aha moment’.

That night, I did my fair share of research on the Royal Museums Greenwich website and learned more about these magnificent, colourful ribbons of light. The lights that we can see are actually a natural phenomenon that takes place due to an activity that happens on the surface of the sun. Ironically, the beauty of the spectacular curtains of light often conceals how it is a rather violent event. Firstly, the mesmerising spectacle is born when celestial particles, which are charged with energy from the sun, slam into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million mph; however, the Earth’s magnetic fields shield us and offer protection from the cosmic onslaught. The Earth’s magnetic fields then redirect these celestial particles towards the poles of the Earth. When solar winds slam into the Earth’s ionosphere, the Aurora lights are born.

After learning this, I wondered, ‘So, what dictates the colours of the northern lights?’

I asked my sister (who is a student of science) this question, to which she replied, “Oh, the bright colours are dictated by the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, of course!”

The Northern Lights played a huge role in my life because they led me in the direction of two extremely crucial realisations:

Firstly, the journey of understanding this beautiful natural phenomenon made me realise that I shouldn’t consider myself a failure just because I am unaware. I must make efforts to learn, to progress, and to give myself the chance to be the best version of myself. I shouldn’t push myself further away from the journey of self-realisation and gaining knowledge. It made me come to terms with the fact that we all have to start somewhere, and eventually we will prove to ourselves that we can learn. It made me come over my constant fear of appearing like a dimwit and actually trying to cope better in a more responsible, reflected, and mature manner instead of sulking. Aurora inspires me to learn something new every single day.

Secondly, it made me realise that people can be deceptive, just like Aurora. They can be strikingly breathtaking; however, they can also be violent in nature. One must always sleep with an eye open around Aurora Borealis or people like her.

Featured Image Courtesy –


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