Reports Of Northern Lights' Demise Greatly Exaggerated - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Reports Of Northern Lights’ Demise Greatly Exaggerated

Published January 28, 2016

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Despite rumours to the contrary, the Northern Lights are not about to disappear within the next few years, an astronomy enthusiast has confirmed.

RÚV spoke with Sævar Helgi Bragason, the head of the Amateur Astronomical Society of Seltjarnarnes, who explained a bit how northern lights work. This was done in response to numerous and inaccurate reports that they will soon disappear, temporarily or forever.

The truth of the matter is, Sævar explains, that the northern lights do go through a brightness and dimness cycle. This is dependent on the activity of the Sun, which creates the northern lights when solar particles collide with the Earth’s magnetic field.

Every 11 years or so, solar activity linked to the northern lights calms down a bit. This leads to the lights dimming slightly for the duration. However, this process being a cycle, solar activity does ramp back up again, and the northern lights gain greater brightness at that time. As the peak of solar activity occurred in 2014, he says, we still have a ways to go before the northern lights reach peak dimness. Even so, their brightness will return all the same.

Sævar adds that December and January are actually the worst times to see the northern lights, as chances of seeing them are at their lowest then. The spring and fall equinoxes, he said, are the ideal times for spotting the northern lights, with fall being the best time of all.

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