Cernan Earth and Space Center
Grade Level: 3rd grade and upLength: 30 minutes
Arctic Light is a C-360 wraparound film produced by the Northern Lights Planetarium in Tromso, Norway. Located within the most active auroral zone on Earth, Tromso has been a leading center for northern lights research since the 1930s. The film begins by showing the phenomenon of the midnight sun, with a time-lapse view of an entire 24-hour day with the circular path of the sun just above the horizon followed by spectacular footage of an ice field in northernmost Norway filmed by the light of the midnight sun.
Research into the northern lights is, of course, conducted at the opposite time of year, when the sun never rises above the horizon. Research into the aurora is conducted using research rockets built by NASA in cooperation with Norwegian scientists. The film shows these rockets being outfitted and launched. As these rockets fly through the auroral zones, they send back valuable data to researchers on the ground. During the winter "day," the landscape is bathed only in twilight glow. Despite this seeming limitation, residents still find time to enjoy outdoor activities around mid-day, and natural light is replaced by artificial light. New Year's Eve is celebrated with widespread displays of fireworks, as resident look forward to the return of sunlight on Jan. 24.
But by far the most visually impressive aspect of Arctic Light is the all-sky images of the aurora borealis itself. There are three segments of C-360 auroral footage in Arctic Light, and they effectively illustrate the haunting beauty of this rarely seen (at least from our latitude) natural phenomenon. Slowly evolving arcs of greenish light with occasional bursts of activity, the aurora seems almost alive. A brief question-and-answer period follows the film presentation.
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