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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.

Click pictures for more information and credits.
Arctic Library: Northern Lights
Environment, Sky, Inuit
Links: Northern Lights, Environment, Inuit
What Causes the Northern Lights?
Arctic Sunrise/Sunset

Double-click any unlinked word DICTIONARY: Just "double-click" any unlinked word on this page for the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at Word Central.
Arctic Library ARCTIC LIBRARY & GLOSSARY: Check this section for an index of the rest of the things you really need to know about the Arctic.
All sorts of Arctic Maps ARCTIC MAPS & WEATHER REPORTS: Maps of the Northwest Passage, explorers' routes, iceberg sources, Nunavut, the Arctic by treeline, temperature...
Links to related sites. ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
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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