by Lucky Byfleet
Can the Northern Lights hurt you? No. The earth is protected by the magnetosphere – but without it yes they could. However, you probably aren’t googling this as you fly through space.
Don´t worry. There is no such thing as a stupid question, and the reason this article is here is that one of the top questions we get asked during the Northern Lights season (after “Can a whale eat a human?”) is “Can the Northern Lights hurt you?”
To answer this fully you need to know what the Northern Lights or Aurora are.
The simplest explanation is that the Northern Lights are solar wind entering the magnetic field that surrounds the Earth.
The Earth is surrounded by the magnetosphere – imagine a magnetic force field. Ionized solar (in Icelandic sun is sól!) particles enter it and electrons are flung out into the earth’s atmosphere. Those electrons collide with gases, gases that are full of energy! When the energy is released we see it as bright colors. Different gases being stimulated create different colors in the aurora, mostly we see green and yellow colors from oxygen, but when nitrogen is affected we see reds, pinks, and blues!
That magnetosphere keeps us safe – without it, we would be exposed to all the harmful effects of the solar wind – like radiation. If you are thinking of colonizing Mars this is a problem for you as Mars has no magnetosphere.
A really strong solar storm can damage our electronics, causing issues with communication, and even blackouts. However, places like hospitals, where energy is critical to life in the short term have backup generators, and we also get advanced warnings of solar flares, so they won’t be creeping up on us!
We sail daily from Reykjavik harbor, Iceland, on our beautiful superyacht Amelia Rose. During the winter we take people out to see these stunning (and not dangerous) northern lights. Hopefully, now you know whether the Northern Lights can hurt you, you will come out and view them with us!