Amazing star trek

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 October, 2009, 12:00am


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Silent Sound has remained at sea for much of the past week as we try to put in some miles heading south. That has meant we haven't seen much of Baffin Island, the huge, rugged landmass on our starboard side. But that doesn't mean we haven't been enjoying nature.

Out here, far away from cities and the light pollution they produce, we have an unobstructed view of the sky, and it is beautiful. We can see millions of stars and many of the nearer planets. In this darkness the giant icebergs glow white even on the blackest of nights.

One of the most incredible sights has been the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. These are bands of light that dance and weave across the Arctic sky. Normally they are white or green, but sometimes they show tinges of purple and red as well. They look like giant stage curtains fluttering in the wind, crossing the sky from horizon to horizon.

Aurora Borealis is caused by electrically charged particles shooting from the sun towards the earth, striking atoms and molecules of oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. These collisions produce energy in the form of light. It's the same principle as a neon sign, where molecules of the gas neon are the targets.

The colour of the light depends on the energy of the incoming particles and the kinds of gas they collide with. The more common oxygen produces green, while red and purple come from oxygen and nitrogen.

Most of the particles are deflected towards an oval area on either the north or south poles, making it more common to see the lights when you are in the Arctic.

So, even though we're miles from land and we can't always see the snow-capped mountains, we're still enjoying a rare display of nature.