Variations on the Theme of Northern Lights

This morning I woke up as usual to BBC Radio 3. Unusually however this morning’s breakfast programme was broadcast live from the picturesque town of Tromsø in Norway, which is well inside the Actic Circle so is dark all day at this time of year. The broadcast from Norway part of a three-week extravaganza called Northern Lights, which focusses on the music and culture North of 60° latitude.

Anyway, this prompted me to do a brief post about a couple of related matters connected by the theme of Northern Lights.

The first is to draw your attention to the fact that, to coincide with this Nobel Prize Week in Stockholm, the artist Olafur Eliasson has set up a temporary public artwork in Stockholm called Your Star, which involves putting an artificial star into the sky over Stockholm. I gather it has been quite difficult to get the star to behave in the windy conditions, but in any case you can use the website to view six short videos and even create your own star..

The second is this wonderful video of the  Aurora Borealis? If you haven’t seen this before then take a look. It’s not a fake. This is what it’s really like.

I stood under a show like this once, in Tromsø in fact, and I can tell you ever the word “awesome” applied to anything, this is it. The curious thing is that I had the definite feeling that there was a booming and whooshing sound to go with the light show. I wasn’t the only one there who thought they could hear it as well as see it. And I wasn’t drunk either. Well, not very.

I’m reliably informed however that there is no physical mechanism that could produce sound waves of sufficient power to reach ground level from the altitude at which the light is generated. It must have been psychological, as if the brain wants to add a backing track when it sees something as spectacular as this. Any views on this phenomenon would be welcome via the comments box..


UPDATE: here’s an interesting take on the Auroral Sounds issue.

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