Weird weather questions- northern lights, the green flash...

I’m wondering about the aurora borealis, aka northern lights. I seem to remember reading somewhere that if it’s reaaallly quiet, you can actually hear them. Has anyone ever experienced this? I live in Texas and I’ve never even seen them; it’s one of my “I wanna do that someday” goals so I’m really curious. What do they look like? I mean, I’ve seen pictures, but I imagine it’s different in person, since they move. Is it like cutains blowing in the breeze or what? When’s the nest time to see them (‘night’ is not an acceptable answer).

Another thing I’ve heard of is the green flash, which one can see right before sunrise or right after sunset. I read about it in Reader’s Digest probably 20 years ago. I seem to remember that it’s extremely rare, and only happens on the clearest of clear days- which probably means it’s becoming even more rare. Anyone ever seen one of those?

Here is the master’s verdict on the green flash:

http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a880408.html

Conversations and primariy experience are that this pleasant process can be seen most often at sea, near dawn, under a blanket of clouds that do not reach to the horizon, when looking west.

Most frequently near the equator as a storm approaches, and rain and rainbows are in evidence.

On a sailboat, if observed, hatches should be battened, and sails reefed or dropped all together.

Experience holds that because of that rather short distance to the horizon, a quick and nasty blow is about to overtake you, but pass by fairly quickly.

Bawdysurfer… I’m not sure where this is coming from. I’ve never read anything about the green flash that suggests it’s a precursor to bad weather.
mavpace gave you Cecil’s answer, but there’s some better (IMHO) info in
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=33811

There are links to pictures if you want to see what one actually looks like. A little disappointing, but at least you’ll know.

As for the Northern Lights, try
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=32031

If anyone is telling you they’re audible, I’d say he’s full of it, but you never know, I guess.

Thanks for the links… I know what causes these things, I’m mostly hoping to hear people’s personal experiences with them. More right-brained-stuff- what was it really like seeing it. Call me Captain Vicarious.

Ah. The place for gathering opinions of this sort is In My Humble Opinion. I’ll move the thead over there for you.

Northern Lights

I think its a crock. I live in Northern Alberta and I can see them with “some” degree of regularity. I have never heard anything that couldn’t be explained away by more common natural occurences, like wind blowing snow or something. Some people also say if you whistle they will move. Ummm, yeah. Sure they will. Did you neglect to also mention they are always moving?

Green Flash

I have to read those links, as I haven’t yet, but if you are refering to what I believe you are I witnessed one. I was on a carribean cruise in 98 and saw an absolutely beautiful sunset. My wife was in the cabin not feeling well, so I was by myself on the deck. It was one of those times that you feel time almost stop. I remember that I could look at the sun, and actually see it dip below the horizon. It is kinda tough to explain. Just as it went out of sight there was this green “flash” through the whole sky. It lasted a fraction of a second but have never seen anything like it before or since. I wish my wife was there to witness it.

I grew up in Northern MN, and they were nearly always out around December. I don’t know what they are supposed to sound like though, so I can’t say I’ve heard them. As far as visual experience, the closet description I can give is to look at a pic of them, and then imagine it like a very sheer curtain in a light wind, rippling, folding, billowing and flowing. We had mostly the green and blue lights. The reds and yellows come out more in higher Canada or Alaska. It’s the one thing I miss most of all of living there. As both a little kid and when older, watching the lights, especially when the wolves were howling, was the purest form of beauty and peace.

Bawdysurfer said: (concerning the green flash)

If you are facing west, near dawn, the sun would be behind you, since it rises in the east. How would that produce a green flash?

I have always heard of the green flash being a sunset phenomena.

I hate it when I fail myself(and others).

Facing west is the correct situation.

Sunset is when this has occured, for me.

My guess is that I have seen around twenty of these flashes.

There was always a risk of an approaching squall within maybe 60 minutes or so after seeing one.

Documented? Don’t know. In the sixties, in the South Pacific, this was my experience.

BFD

It’s really very hard to say “what the Northern Lights look like”, because they’re different each time. I’ve seen them a total of six times, in five different forms:
The first time I saw them, the whole sky was changing colors more less uniformly: It would be all red, then fade into all green, then all purple, etc. Occasionally, there were thin lines of white light that moved across the northern sky, like windshield wipers.
The second time I saw them, it was green amoebas. There would be a blob in one part of the sky, which would change shape, and grow and shrink, and occasionally fade out and re-appear elsewhere.
The third time, there was a pale white arch over the sky, which turned into a pale green as my night vision kicked in. As time passed, it developed into the wavy curtains that you see so often in pictures.
The fourth time, there were spikes of pale greenish-white light coming up from the northern horizon, but which didn’t do much. I’ve heard that this is the most common type in my area (southwest Montana/Yellowstone).
The fifth time, it was curtains again. I saw them a bit later than in time number 3, so I didn’t see if they started out as just an arch.
The sixth time, there was just a vague glow across the entire northern horizon, just enough to silouette the mountains. There was a dark diagonal stripe through it, and above it, a reddish rectangular area.
As for the sounds, there’s no known mechanism by which they would be produced, and there seems to be a pretty good corellation between the occurence of sounds and the consumption of various mind-altering substances. Draw your own conclusions.
For the best time to see them, you want sometime shortly after midnight, a couple of days after a major solar storm. There’s websites and mailing lists that will tell you when these occur, but I don’t have any of the addresses handy. We had plenty this past year, what with the solar maximum, but that’s winding down now, so you might have to wait another eleven years. The most important thing, though, is to be able to get as far away from light pollution as you can: A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t see the Milky Way where you are, you probably won’t be able to see the Lights, either. Of course, it also helps to get further north, if possible.