During the second half of this decade, the Northern Lights are becoming more rare than at any other time in more than a century, according to the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, generally follow an 11-year solar-cycle, in which the frequency of the phenomena rises to a maximum and then tapers off into a minimum and then repeats the cycle.
They’re triggered by solar winds crashing into the earth and being drawn to the magnetic poles, wreaking havoc on electrons in the parts of the atmosphere known as the ionosphere and magnetosphere.
So a dimming of the Northern Lights is a signal that activity on the sun – which causes solar winds (such as solar flares and sun sports) – is also quieting down.
During the cycle’s peak in 2003, the observing station on Norway’s Svalbard Island (near the North Pole), showed that the Northern Lights were visible almost every single night of the auroral season.
That number has fallen to less than 50%.
As a new solar cycle of activity begins this year, the Earth will once again be bombarded with increased radiation from the sun.
This effect may damage satellites and interfere with GPS, television and communications… and increase the frequency of the Northern Lights.