Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis in Yukon
When is the best time to watch for Aurora Borealis in Yukon?
In Yukon Autumn and Winter are generally good seasons to see the Northern Lights. The long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights provide many good opportunities to watch the Aurora Borealis. Usually the best time of night (on clear nights) to watch for Northern Lights is local midnight (adjust for differences caused by daylight savings time).
Where is the best place to watch the Northern Lights?
The best place to see the Aurora in Whitehorse is outside town, so the lights of the town do not interfere with the visibility of the Aurora Borealis.
Nature Tours of Yukon specializes in "The Great Yukon Aurora Hunt", were we take you to the best spots to see the northern lights. Because the phenomena occurs near the magnetic poles, the best places to watch the Northern Lights (in North America) are in the Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Alaska.
Taking good pictures of the Northern Lights is not easy, since they're fast-moving, often faint and against a pitch-dark background, all of which befuddles consumer point-and-shoots. Here's what you need for a sporting chance:
- A camera that supports manual exposure (5 to 40 seconds).
- A fast lens (aperture f/2.8 or better)
- Fast film (800 ASA or better), or equivalent ISO setting on a digital camera
- A tripod to hold the long exposure
- Cable release or self-timer to trigger shots without stirring the camera
Legends of the Aurora Borealis.
Many cultural groups have legends about the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. From dragons to dancing souls, cultures throughout the world have attempted to explain the swaying lights in the night sky through legends and myths. From northern First Nations beliefs that related the Aurora Borealis with life and death, to ancient Chinese cultures that created the earliest dragon legends from the Northern Lights, the aurora have affected cultural beliefs from the moment they were perceived.
A common Inuit belief was that the auroras were the souls of the departed on their way to the afterlife, while other Inuit thought that they were the souls of unborn children. Eskimos living in the Hudson Bay area held that whistling at the northern lights would cause them to move towards the sound while clapping would jolt it away. Others in regions of Greenland and some parts of Canada believed the lights to be departed souls attempting to contact living loved ones.
What are Northern Lights?
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as 'Aurora borealis' in the north and 'Aurora Australis' in the south..
Aurora Borealis displays appear in many colours although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.
Northern Lights can be seen in the northern or southern hemisphere, in an irregularly shaped oval centred over each magnetic pole. The lights are known as 'Aurora borealis' in the north and 'Aurora Australis' in the south. Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colours.
What causes the Aurora Borealis?
The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun's atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common Aurora Borealis colour, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.
The lights of the Aurora generally extend from 80 kilometer (50 miles) to as high as 640 kilometer (400 miles) above the earth's surface.