Sunday, September 27, 2009

An awesome cover from Finland!

On 9th September 2009, the Finnish Post issued a stunning set of stamps entitled "Aurora Borealis" or "Northern Lights".

I am very lucky to receive a FDC with these 3 gorgeous stamps on it. Thank you soooo much Johanna Palonen!!!
­The Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights have always fascinated mankind, and people even travel thousands of miles just to see the brilliant light shows in the earth's atmosphere. The Aurora Borealis surrounding the north magnetic pole occur when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the earth's atmosphere. Solar winds stream away from the sun at speeds of about 1 million miles per hour. When they reach the earth, some 40 hours after leaving the sun, they follow the lines of magnetic force generated by the earth's core and flow through the magnetosphere, a teardrop-shaped area of highly charged electrical and magnetic fields.

Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks, Alaska

­As the electrons enter the earth's upper atmosphere, they will encounter atoms of oxygen and nitrogen at altitudes from 20 to 200 miles above the earth's surface. The color of the aurora depends on which atom is struck, and the altitude of the meeting.
Green - oxygen, up to 150 miles in altitude
Red - oxygen, above 150 miles in altitude
Blue - nitrogen, up to 60 miles in altitude
Purple/violet - nitrogen, above 60 miles in altitude

Its southern counterpart, the "Aurora Australis" or "The Southern Polar Lights", has similar properties, but is only visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, South America, or Australasia.

Northern Lights over Des Moines, Lowa, USA

The origin of the northern lights has various explanations in folklore and mythology. And here are some interesting ones...

The Finnish name for the northern lights "revontulet" is associated with the arctic fox. According to a folk tale, an arctic fox is running far in the north and touching the mountains with its fur, so that sparks fly off into the sky as the northern lights. Another version of the story says the fox throws the northern lights up into the sky by sweeping snow upwards with its tail.


Red and green Aurora in Fairbanks, Alaska

The Eskimos in the northernmost parts of Canada believe that the northern lights are created by spirits, which, dressed in the mystical light, are having fun because the sun is missing. Rapidly moving aurora were called the dance of death. In the folklore of the Eskimos of eastern Greenland, the auroras are the souls of killed new-born babies or stillborn babies. The northern lights can be called by the name "alugsukat", which means a secret birth.

Amrimen Fox Indians were afraid of the northern lights because they believed them to be the avenging souls of enemies they had killed.

Aurora australis in Antarctica

The Makah Indians believed that the northern lights were fires lit by dwarfs. In contrast, the Mandan Indians saw the northern lights as fires on which the great shamans and soldiers from the northern lands were slowly cooking their dead enemies in huge pots.

The Menomini Indians believed that a benevolent giant was catching fish in the northern sea, using a fire. On the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in Siberia, and in Russian and Finnish Lapland, there is a belief that the northern lights are associated with violent death in battle, which is continuing in the sky.

Northern lights over Calgary, Canada

The Chuvas tribe had a god named Suratan-Tura, which also meant the northern lights. This god helped women to give birth. The northern lights were especially a sign of giving birth to a son.

I would love to experience this awsome sight one day!

The other stamp franked on the cover was issued by the Finnish Post on 06th May 2009 for its Europa CEPT "Astronomy" series. The pair of stamps depict a fantasy landscape of lakes and different heavenly bodies. The left-hand stamp has the Moon in the centre, with the Milky Way on the right side of the stamp. The stamp on the right bears a comet on its left side, accompanied by a lunar eclipse. The large planet shown on the stamp is Saturn.

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