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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

What are the Northern Lights?

What are the Northern Lights?

With the days getting shorter, you may think there is less activity in the skies. Yet, this is one of the best times to view the aurora borealis—the northern lights. This display of fantastic colors is the reaction of energized solar winds that result in bands of light, which appear near the poles and light up the skies. They are most visible around the equinoxes (late March and late September).

In northern latitudes, this night sky phenomenon is known as the aurora borealis named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for north wind Boreas, but many people also refer to this glow in the northern horizon as the northern lights.

Is it possible to take pictures of the northern lights?

If you wish to capture this phenomenon on film, the best equipment to use is a camera that permits you to make long exposures (10 seconds or more) and a tripod to hold the camera still during exposures.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.