Pål Brekke

Behind the Northern Lights

On Wednesday, April 20, the Embassy opened its doors to visitors interested in the science and superstitions behind the aurora borealis – a phenomenon most often seen in the northernmost regions of the Earth, including Norway.

“The Northern Lights: A Magical Experience” was presented by renowned solar physicist Pål Brekke, former deputy project scientist for NASA’s SOHO satellite. Mr. Brekke has a Ph.D. in solar physics, teaches at the University Centre in Svalbard, has written several popular books, and currently works as the space science lead at the Norwegian Space Agency.

He discussed the legends and lore associated with the aurora borealis – in the past, they were ascribed to everything from dancing spirits to God’s anger. Then, he covered the breakthrough of Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkely, who discovered that the sun bombards the Earth with particles – the true cause of the northern lights. At the end of the presentation, guests had the opportunity to ask questions and gain further understanding of this uniquely northern wonder of the world.

We thank Mr. Brekke for his time and expertise!