People are only just learning that the Southern Lights are actually a thing

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By stefan armitage

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For thousands of people across the US, UK, and Europe, last night was the first time that they ever witnessed the celestial phenomenon known as the Northern Lights.


Also called the aurora borealis, the dazzling displays of light are created by the interaction of charged particles from the Sun with gases in the Earth's atmosphere. As these charged particles collide with atmospheric gases, they energize atoms and molecules, causing them to emit light.

The distinct colors of the aurora are a result of different gases in the Earth's atmosphere being energized by the incoming charged particles. Nitrogen and oxygen are the two most abundant gases in the atmosphere, with oxygen atoms emitting predominantly green light - the most common color observed in the Northern Lights. 

Nitrogen atoms, on the other hand, emit hues of purple, blue, and pink.

Spectators gather in England to see the Northern Lights. Credit: Ian Forsyth / Getty

In the UK, the lights were seen as far south as the Isle of Wight, and in the US, states like Alabama and northern California were lucky enough to see the stunning lights.

Due to it being the first time many people had witnessed the breathtaking display, it's no surprised that '#auroraborealis' and 'Northern Lights' were trending on X (formerly known as Twitter).

But many social media users were then left stunned to hear of a phenomenon they've never heard of before: The Southern Lights.


A second added: "Never thought about it but my sister said there was Southern Lights too in Melbourne she missed as well !! These are Southern lights !! Never twigged they’d be a thing!!"

Even people in the southern hemisphere didn't know, with one X user writing: "Just found out aurora australis (SOUTHERN lights) are a thing and they were visible here too and i didn't even look outside???"

Yes, for those unaware, the Southern Lights are very much a thing.

So, what sets apart the northern lights from their southern counterpart?

The southern lights over New Zealand. Credit: NurPhoto / Getty

Named after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, and Boreas, the Greek god of the North Wind, the Aurora borealis received their moniker from renowned scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei.

Throughout history, the northern lights have been steeped in myth and legend, with the Vikings perceiving them as reflections of Valkyries' shields guiding the souls of fallen warriors, while Greenlandic folklore believed them to be the spirits of children lost at birth.

In contrast, the Aurora australis, named after Auster, the Greek god of the South Wind, have fewer myths surrounding them, though the Maori of New Zealand once regarded the southern lights as the luminous echoes of past generations' torches and campfires.

The Southern Lights should be on your bucket list! Credit: NurPhoto / Getty

Both the northern and southern lights stem from solar winds propelled from the sun toward Earth. Guided by the Earth's magnetic field, the charged particles of these winds collide with atmospheric atoms and gas molecules, resulting in the emission of photons – tiny bursts of light.

The vibrant colors of the auroras are dictated by the gases encountered by these charged particles; oxygen molecules contribute to green or red hues, while nitrogen molecules produce blue or violet displays.

Essentially, the same phenomenon occurs at both the southern and northern magnetic poles, rendering little disparity between the two - but there are certainly come differences to look out for.

According to PolarTours, witnessing the southern lights proves more challenging than their northern counterpart due to the sparse landmasses surrounding the Antarctic Circle. Unlike the accessibility of the northern lights in the Arctic, where one can venture into the tundra for a glimpse, Antarctica's rugged terrain – characterized by vast expanses of pack ice – presents formidable obstacles to observing the southern lights.

Remarkably, the southern lights are often deemed even more spectacular than their northern counterpart, boasting vivid displays and an expansive palette of colors.

Unimpeded by light pollution, the southern auroras offer a dazzling array of hues - with people in the southern hemisphere more likely to see golden or yellow hues.

This heightened brilliance is also attributed to the highly charged particles penetrating deeper into the Earth's atmosphere at greater speeds, colliding with larger and denser gas molecules.

So, there you have it. Maybe it's time the aurora australis gets a little more love and recognition.

Featured image credit: NurPhoto / Getty

People are only just learning that the Southern Lights are actually a thing

vt-author-image

By stefan armitage

Article saved!Article saved!

For thousands of people across the US, UK, and Europe, last night was the first time that they ever witnessed the celestial phenomenon known as the Northern Lights.


Also called the aurora borealis, the dazzling displays of light are created by the interaction of charged particles from the Sun with gases in the Earth's atmosphere. As these charged particles collide with atmospheric gases, they energize atoms and molecules, causing them to emit light.

The distinct colors of the aurora are a result of different gases in the Earth's atmosphere being energized by the incoming charged particles. Nitrogen and oxygen are the two most abundant gases in the atmosphere, with oxygen atoms emitting predominantly green light - the most common color observed in the Northern Lights. 

Nitrogen atoms, on the other hand, emit hues of purple, blue, and pink.

Spectators gather in England to see the Northern Lights. Credit: Ian Forsyth / Getty

In the UK, the lights were seen as far south as the Isle of Wight, and in the US, states like Alabama and northern California were lucky enough to see the stunning lights.

Due to it being the first time many people had witnessed the breathtaking display, it's no surprised that '#auroraborealis' and 'Northern Lights' were trending on X (formerly known as Twitter).

But many social media users were then left stunned to hear of a phenomenon they've never heard of before: The Southern Lights.


A second added: "Never thought about it but my sister said there was Southern Lights too in Melbourne she missed as well !! These are Southern lights !! Never twigged they’d be a thing!!"

Even people in the southern hemisphere didn't know, with one X user writing: "Just found out aurora australis (SOUTHERN lights) are a thing and they were visible here too and i didn't even look outside???"

Yes, for those unaware, the Southern Lights are very much a thing.

So, what sets apart the northern lights from their southern counterpart?

The southern lights over New Zealand. Credit: NurPhoto / Getty

Named after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, and Boreas, the Greek god of the North Wind, the Aurora borealis received their moniker from renowned scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei.

Throughout history, the northern lights have been steeped in myth and legend, with the Vikings perceiving them as reflections of Valkyries' shields guiding the souls of fallen warriors, while Greenlandic folklore believed them to be the spirits of children lost at birth.

In contrast, the Aurora australis, named after Auster, the Greek god of the South Wind, have fewer myths surrounding them, though the Maori of New Zealand once regarded the southern lights as the luminous echoes of past generations' torches and campfires.

The Southern Lights should be on your bucket list! Credit: NurPhoto / Getty

Both the northern and southern lights stem from solar winds propelled from the sun toward Earth. Guided by the Earth's magnetic field, the charged particles of these winds collide with atmospheric atoms and gas molecules, resulting in the emission of photons – tiny bursts of light.

The vibrant colors of the auroras are dictated by the gases encountered by these charged particles; oxygen molecules contribute to green or red hues, while nitrogen molecules produce blue or violet displays.

Essentially, the same phenomenon occurs at both the southern and northern magnetic poles, rendering little disparity between the two - but there are certainly come differences to look out for.

According to PolarTours, witnessing the southern lights proves more challenging than their northern counterpart due to the sparse landmasses surrounding the Antarctic Circle. Unlike the accessibility of the northern lights in the Arctic, where one can venture into the tundra for a glimpse, Antarctica's rugged terrain – characterized by vast expanses of pack ice – presents formidable obstacles to observing the southern lights.

Remarkably, the southern lights are often deemed even more spectacular than their northern counterpart, boasting vivid displays and an expansive palette of colors.

Unimpeded by light pollution, the southern auroras offer a dazzling array of hues - with people in the southern hemisphere more likely to see golden or yellow hues.

This heightened brilliance is also attributed to the highly charged particles penetrating deeper into the Earth's atmosphere at greater speeds, colliding with larger and denser gas molecules.

So, there you have it. Maybe it's time the aurora australis gets a little more love and recognition.

Featured image credit: NurPhoto / Getty