Many Canadians have seen northern lights at least once, but the view is usually of gentle, shimmering green lights that fade slowly into sight and just as slowly melt away. However, for those living in and near the Arctic Circle, the northern lights are on another level, as this video from Yellowknifer David Yau proves.
His video, taken in January, shows such vibrant and fast-moving northern lights that you might assume it’s been digitally edited. It hasn’t — the looping, swirling colours really are moving that fast (in another version of the video, you can hear people’s exclamations of wonder in real-time). The twinges of purple that appear as part of the display and are, according to Yau, a bit unusual but not unheard of.
Yau is a photographer and tour guide who often takes groups out to photograph the lights, but even he agrees that what he saw that night was unusually spectacular. “That night I felt like the light was coming all the way, coming down to me. [It was] totally different from other nights,” Yau told the CBC. “It felt like a dragon was coming down to my face.”
The northern lights happen where Earth’s magnetic field is strongest. The northern lights are caused when particles discharged by the sun are drawn towards Earth’s magnetic poles. When they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, these charged particles collide with gases, producing the lights we see in the sky. Yellowknife sits beneath a particularly sweet spot for geomagnetic activity, which is why that area sees such vibrant displays.
So while the rest of us may not envy a Yellowknife winter, it definitely has its perks. If you’re living in the southern half of the country, check out the video above and prepare to get jealous.