Auroras sometimes called the northern and southern lights are natural light displays in the sky. In order to see an Aurora, one usually needs a dark sky (no bright moon, no city lights) and relatively clear weather. Auroras usually occur near the magnetic poles of the earth and occur most often during the equinoxes. Note that the magnetic poles of the earth do not coincide with the geographic poles. For example, the Magnetic North Pole is located in the Arctic Islands of Northern Canada.

The name Aurora Borealis is attributed to Pierre Gassendi, a 17th century French philosopher, astronomer and mathematician. He named the natural light display for Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn and Boreas which was the Greek name for the north wind. The Southern lights were named Aurora Australis because Australis is the Latin word for South. As with most unexplained natural phenomena, historically there have been all kinds of legends and quite silly religious and superstitious beliefs associated with the Auroras.

Since clear sky and darkness are essential to see aurora, the best time is dictated by the weather and by the sun rise and set times. The moon is also very bright, and should be taken into account when deciding on a period to travel for the purpose of auroral observation. One might see aurora from dusk to dawn throughout the night. The chances are higher for the 3 or 4 hours around midnight.


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