Aurora Resort

in Manitoba, Canada

Commonly Asked Questions?

What is the cause?

-The auroras occur when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the earth's atmosphere.

Is there a best place (geographically) to see them?

-Right here in Manitoba.

Is there a best time to view them?

-Between mid-October and March is the best time to see the Northern Lights in our region. The optimal time of night for the Northern Lights is 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Differences and similarities between Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis?

-The Aurora Borealis is in the northern hemisphere at the north pole. However the Aurora Australis is in the southern hemisphere at the south pole. That is the only difference in them; they are both formed in the same way. They are both polar lights.

How can we forecast when the Auroras will occur?

-In the North it is actually much easier to predict the aurora than it is to predict the weather. Amateur space weather enthusiasts in the North can quickly learn how to make a prediction simply by monitoring a few key websites, and by adjusting global predictions with the actual observations made above or near your community.

What causes the different colors of the Northern Lights?

-The color of the aurora depends on which gas is being released by the electrons and on how much energy is being exchanged. Oxygen emits either a greenish-yellow light (the most familiar color of the aurora) or a red light; nitrogen generally gives off a blue light. The oxygen and nitrogen molecules also emit ultraviolet light, which can only be detected by special cameras on satellites.

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Local Folklore and Legends

The Eskimos and Indians of North America have many stories to explain these northern lights. One story is reported by the explorer Ernest W. Hawkes in his book, The Labrador Eskimo:

The ends of the land and sea are bounded by an immense abyss,
over which a narrow and dangerous pathway leads to the
heavenly regions. The sky is a great dome of hard material
arched over the Earth. There is a hole in it through which the
spirits pass to the true heavens. Only the spirits of those who
have died a voluntary or violent death, and the Raven, have been
over this pathway. The spirits who live there light torches to
guide the feet of new arrivals. This is the light of the aurora.
They can be seen there feasting and playing football with a
walrus skull.
The whistling crackling noise which sometimes accompanies the
aurora is the voices of these spirits trying to communicate
with the people of the Earth. They should always be answered
in a whispering voice. Youths dance to the aurora. The
heavenly spirits are called selamiut, "sky-dwellers," those who
live in the sky.