The Aurora Borealis - The Northern Lights

The Greatest Light Show On Earth...


The name "Aurora Borealis" was given to this great light show in the 17th century by Galileo Galilei because Aurora was the Roman goddess of dawn, and Boreas was the Greek name for the north wind.

At the time, it was thought that the Aurora Borealis was caused by the way that sunlight is reflected from the atmosphere.

The coloured lights seen are caused by the interaction of the solar wind, the earth's magnetic field, and the atmosphere. The solar wind carries electrons, from the sun's atmosphere into space. These charged particles are drawn into the Earth's magnetic field, and when the particles collide with gasses in the atmosphere energy is created. Some of this energy is given off in the form of light emissions.

This also happens in the Southern Hemisphere where it is called the Aurora Australis.


To stand and watch the Northern lights is high on many peoples lists of things they want to do.  It is also high on the list of things to photograph for many wildlife or landscape photographers.

Having been to several Northern countries such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland before and having only seen brief appearances of the Northern lights before, I too was keen to get some images of this wonderful light show.

On a two week trip to Finland in 2012, I was fortunate enough to see the Northern Lights on six evenings.   I returned to Finland in 2013 and saw the Northern Lights on a further three evenings.  These images and those on the page of Aurora photography hints and tips were taken during these visits.  On one of these visits we had a full moon which had quite a dramatic effect on the Aurora especially given the amount of reflected light from the snow.



The Finnish name for the Aurora Borealis is "Revontulet" and there are various explanations as to how the lights are produced.

According to Finnish folklore the spectacular light show is caused by the Arctic Fox.  As the Arctic Fox runs across the snow the foxes tail brushing the snow causes sparks and these sparks create the Northern Lights. 

This Arctic Fox image was taken in Norway in 2010