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Astronomie et cultures autochtones


CHIN, Ottawa, Ontario


The aurora is a ghostly glow in the nighttime sky. In the northern hemisphere, you might see the Aurora Borealis (northern lights), while in the southern hemisphere, you'd see the Aurora Australis (southern lights). Most auroras are blue-green, but sometimes they have shades of red, yellow and violet. They often look like arcs that stretch across the horizon, or like tall billowing curtains.

Auroras happen when particles from the Sun stream across space-this phenomenon is called the solar wind. Some of these particles converge at the Earth's north and south magnetic poles. When they enter the Earth's upper atmosphere, their electrical charges make the air glow like a neon light.

If you live above a mid-northern latitute, or below a mid-southern latitute, you can see auroras almost any night. People closer to the equator have to wait until times of peak solar activity, when the Sun sends more particles towards the Earth. At these times, the auroras move closer to the equator, where people who can't usually see them get a spectacular show.

According to traditional Aboriginal beliefs, the Northern Lights are the Spirits dancing as they proceed westward through the star world to their final destination. Cheepayak Nemitowak (Cree) is translated into English as The Spirts Dancing. This phenomenon is called Wawatay in the Anishinabe language. In the English language this phenomenon is called the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
Canadian Heritage Information Network

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
Learning Object Collection: Cosmic Quest: Ways of Looking
Learning Object: Cosmic Quest: Sky Objects
Institution: RCIP-CHIN