The Northern Lights

Northern Lights Over Finland

Aurora Watching

Jan 19

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"When the mirrie dancers play, they are like to slay"

~Scottish proverb

In Scottish folklore the Northern Lights are known as the Na Fir Chlis – “the Nimble Men” (also known as the Merry Dancers). Storytellers described the aurora as epic fights among sky warriors or fallen angels. According to one legend, blood from the wounded fell to earth and spotted the “bloodstones” (a variety of jasper) found in the Hebrides. Some North American Inuit call the auroras aqsarniit, or football players, believing they result from spirits of the dead playing football with the head of a walrus! Aurora Borealis season in northern polar latitudes (Alaska, northern Canada, Scotland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Siberia) runs from August-thru-April with some of the peak observation windows happening in the months of September and March! Check your favourite aurora forecast site tonight!

The Northern Lights

September through March are some of the best fall months to view the northern lights, the Aurora Borealis.


Their southern counterpart, which light up the Antarctic skies in the Southern Hemisphere, are known as the Aurora Australis.


The British Geological Survey, Aurorawatch UK and US body Space Weather Prediction Centre all monitor heightened opportunities of spotting the aurora due to activity on the surface of the sun.


The aurora is caused by the interaction of solar wind - a stream of charged particles escaping the sun - and Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere.  The colors most often associated with the aurora borealis are pink, green, yellow, blue, violet, and occasionally orange and white. Typically, when the particles collide with oxygen, yellow and green are produced. Interactions with nitrogen produce red, violet, and occasionally blue colors.


Auroras have been observed throughout history.  Galileo Galilei and Pierre Gassendi witnessed a lights display in 1621, and a reference to the northern lights was made by Gregory of Tours way back in the 500s. The earliest datable account is on a Babylonian clay tablet that recorded observations made by the official astronomers of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the night of 12/13 March 567 BCE of an unusual “red glow.” But the earliest of all might be 30,000-year-old cave paintings that some believe to represent the aurora. The lights were observed and commented on by Benjamin Franklin in 1778 and Edmond Halley, of comet fame, in 1716.


Cairngorms National Park, the largest national park in Britain, located in the Scottish Highlands, is a favourite place for daytime activities like skiing and hiking. Once night falls, one of the best places to view the Northern Lights is in Glenlivet Estate. Awarded a Dark Sky status, this location ensures that there are no artificial lights that prevent you from seeing the Aurora.


To keep track of aurora sightings in the UK, click the beautiful aurora over the Scottish coast.


And for a performance of the dance by the Strictly Scottish Vancouver Demonstration Team, 2019, scroll down.


The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights

Jan    Feb    Mar    Apr    May    Jun    Jul    Aug    Sep    Oct    Nov    Dec