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Reykjavik Turns Off Street Lights To Turn Up The Northern Lights

On Wednesday evening, the city of Reykjavik, Iceland, turned off street lights and encouraged people to darken their homes so that everyone could watch the northern lights.

The city council released a statement saying street lights would be turned off in multiple sections of the city between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time and warning people to drive carefully.

The city of about 120,000 people, which is located just below the Arctic Circle, prides itself on its frequent shows of the aurora borealis. The blackout attempt appeared justified — photos and videos posted to social media by people in Reykjavik showed dancing lights against a mostly dark sky.

Although it is a small city, light pollution from Reykjavik is visible in past photos of the northern lights, appearing as an orange or pink glow at the horizon.

The Icelandic news outlet The Reykjavik Grapevine reported that the lights stayed off until midnight to accommodate a late start by the solar system and that some people were initially annoyed when the green glow didn't appear on schedule.

The northern lights are routinely visible in the circumpolar region, sometimes even well below the Arctic Circle. The same solar activity that led to the intense lights over Iceland are creating good conditions for the aurora borealis over much of Alaska, where the forecast likelihood of northern lights Thursday night is high.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
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