Sometimes a shimmering purple curtain, sometimes jagged arcs and spirals of brilliant green, the lights are as changeable as they are magnificent, and have baffled and dazzled viewers for generations.
Also known as the aurora borealis, the lights are normally a major tourist attraction in Norway, Finland and Sweden all the way through autumn, winter and spring.
This year, for obvious reasons, the influx may be limited, so tourism authorities in Scandinavia are urging people to get involved another way.
Visit Arctic Europe recently started naming different aurora storms, not unlike the naming of tropical storms and hurricanes, mostly to help scientists easily discuss different auroras.
So far they have picked from a pool of traditional Nordic names, and since the start of September have christened Aurora Harri, Aurora Magnus, Aurora Per, Aurora Steffen, Aurora Freya, and Aurora Sampo.
Now they want members of the public to step forward and suggest their own names, Nordic or otherwise, by filling out a form on the website, including a background section highlighting why your chosen name is important or appropriate.
All chosen names will be shared in the ‘Naming Auroras‘ section, and on the accompanying This Is Arctic Instagram page.
To decide which auroras deserve their own titles, the company uses data from the Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado, which analyses solar X-ray activity to detect which auroras are likely to be strongest and most visible.
The science behind the light is complex, to put it mildly, but we’ll give it a go. Storms on the surface of the sun send ‘charged particles’ hurtling through space, born by ‘solar wind’.
When these particles strike Earth they react to the planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field and become ‘excited’, releasing photons that manifest as the aurora. Nope, we don’t understand it either.
We prefer the more mythical explanations: Some Inuit believed the lights were the spirits of their ancestors dancing across the heavens, while Norse legends held that the aurora was a fire bridge bearing the Gods into the sky.
If you’re lucky, you might see your name very literally up in lights, and organisers are urging would-be namers to get creative. We await with bated breath the announcement of Aurora McAuroraface.