The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that appears along a narrow band circling the magnetic North Pole. Much of the Northwest Territories lies in this auroral zone, where the lights can often be seen directly overhead.
The brightness of the aurora can change quickly. Sometimes it appears as a dim glow similar to the Milky Way on a dark night. A few minutes later the aurora can brighten dramatically and illuminate the whole landscape with the ghostly power of full moonlight.
The brightest auroras have clearly visible shapes – called arcs, bands, draperies and spirals. On exceptional nights, more than one of these shapes may be visible at the same time, and the shapes can move and morph in a matter of seconds, changing colour, dancing and twirling from horizon to horizon. The effect of a bright auroral display on the snow covered landscape in the Northwest Territories in mid-winter is an awe-inspiring sight.
The display is usually blue-green or yellow-green in colour, sometimes edged with pink. Deep red auroras are very rare. They are caused by an unusually heavy bombardment of particles acting on the oxygen in our atmosphere. In the past, blood-red displays were perceived as evil omens and terrified peoples of many cultures.