In this article we will help you find out if there is a potential to see the northern lights in New Brunswick. We will do this by giving you some tools to find out and also give you some history on this phenomenon.
What are Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are an astronomical show that includes not only green but also purple, blue, red, and yellow lights shone by excited atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. These can be observed both day and night, but they are more visible when skies are clearer away from big population centres. There are several factors that affect the intensity and color of these lights, such as sun spots, the 11-year cycle of solar activity, the earth’s magnetic field, and of course the weather.
The phenomenon is most commonly named “aurora borealis” (abbreviated to “Northern Lights”) in the northern hemisphere. Sometimes it is called “aurora australis” (Southern Lights) in its southern hemisphere counterpart. Aurora means dawn in Latin , therefore people see them around sunrise and sunset.
How does this work?
The sun’s activity has fluctuations during its 11-year cycle. These variations affect the Earth’s atmosphere in a way that affects both the Northern and Southern lights. When there is an increase in Sun activity, the earth’s magnetic field becomes stronger and this traps electrons released by the sun (that is why we have a magnetic field on Earth). The strongest solar storms are when these trapped electrons are interacting with atoms in the atmosphere that emit light at certain wavelengths. The light from these emissions is what is seen as Northern Lights.
The effect of other factors:
Earth’s magnetism also has fluctuations and can affect our aurora display. Also, you may learn more about this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunspot#The_11-year_cycle .
The sun-earth connection:
This is probably the most scientific way to explain what causes the Northern Lights. I will try to keep it short and simple so you can enjoy “the pretty lights” as much as possible. But if you want more information, check this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora#Sun-Earth_connection .
The sun and earth both have magnetic fields that surround them creating an area called magnetosphere . Magnetic fields are areas where the magnetic force is strong, and because of that anything with a magnetic charge such as electrons are affected, and move toward it. The sun also has charged particles (electrons). Because of this, when the sun’s magnetic field is stronger, it traps more electrons. When solar storms happen, these electrons can interact with atoms in the atmosphere and emit light at certain wavelengths. This is the cause of Northern Lights.
So can you see the Northern Lights in new Brunswick?
Yes, you can, of course you can. Just go outside at night during the summer and you should be able to see them.
This is my personal experience: At the end of November 2012, I have seen the Northern Lights in Saint John and Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The sun was out but it wasn’t as bright as for example September 1st 2012. At around 12:30 am EET (morning in New Brunswick), I went outside to check if it will be visible for me that day.