Marvels in the sky
Auroras mystically paint the heavens
Night skies are typically aglow with twinkling stars and planets and the occasional streak of a meteor or the tail of a comet, but in the northern and southern reaches of this planet, a different celestial experience is commonplace.
The auroras -- borealis and australis -- are known more familiarly as the northern and southern lights, and they have captured the imagination of the earth-bound since time immemorial. Caused by particles in a solar wind interacting with Earth's magnetic field, they are shimmering sheets of light that capture the imagination and send it darting along paths of magic and wonder.
Medieval Europe saw the lights as heavenly warriors, or in some cases omens of death, illness or war. In the northernmost lands of Scandinavia where their showing is most spectacular, the lights were viewed with awe and respect.
From humble beginnings -- a faint glow on the horizon -- the auroras become phosphorescent, dramatic, drapery-like lights arcing over the night sky. The southern and northern light shows are connected by the earth's magnetic fields, and their displays are symmetrical. The fame is less evenly divided, however -- only the northern portion is designated a wonder of the natural world.