Did you know?

Fact storyboards in Glacier Ridge, Dollywood

Aurora Borealis

  1. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is caused by the solar wind interacting with the Earth's magnetic field. As the sun shines, it doesn't just radiate heat and light, but also charged particles that bombard the Earth constantly. The Earth's magnetic field protects us from these particles, but at the Poles, where the magnetic field folds in on itself, the particles interact with the atmosphere, causing the Aurora.
  2. The Aurora usually appear between 60 and 75 degrees of latitude — the only American state that's that far north is Alaska. During geomagnetic storms, the Aurora travel much further south. In September 1859, they were even seen in Honolulu, Hawaii!
  3. The Aurora come in all sorts of colors, from green to blue to red and even purple. The colors are caused by the charged particles colliding with different gases in the Earth's atmosphere: oxygen causes the yellow and green lights, while nitrogen causes red, purple, and sometimes blue. The colors also depend on how high the collisions happen: blue lights usually appear below 60 miles altitude, green below 150 miles, and red above 150 miles.

Polar Bears

  1. Polar Bears are classified as marine mammals, like whales and dolphins, because they depend so heavily on the Arctic ice pack. However, they are the only marine mammal that can also travel on land! They are also powerful swimmers, though: they can hold their breath for three minutes and swim over one hundred miles.
  2. Polar Bears have been known to visit Brown Bears and Grizzlies further south, sometimes having children with them. In fact, studies have shown that the species have probably interbred fairly regularly for some time, as Grizzlies search northward for food and Polar Bears are pushed off the ice in the warmer summer months.
  3. Their bodies are very well insulated for swimming in the freezing water of the Arctic. They have up to four inches of fat under their skin, as well as a thick hide and two coats of fur to keep them warm. They overheat at temperatures over 50 degrees Fahrenheit!

Arctic North

  1. The Arctic North is the area near the poles where, in the summer, the sun is visible at midnight, and in the winter, it's nighttime at noon. It's delineated by the Arctic Circle at about 66 degrees North of the Equator, or the very northern parts of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, and most of Greenland. The Arctic Circle is gradually moving north, however, at a rate of about 50 feet per year.
  2. North of the Arctic Circle, it can be very cold – it regularly gets to -58 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter – but it can also be mild or even warm in the summer time. In Norway and western parts of Russia, the Gulf Stream keeps the seas there ice-free all year round, and there have been reports of summer days reaching 86 degrees!
  3. The word Arctic comes from the Greek arktikos, meaning "Near the Bear." The bear the ancient Greeks were talking about is Ursa Major, the Great Bear in the sky, also known as the Big Dipper constellation. Its tail (or handle) points toward Polaris, the North Star, and has been used for thousands of years to navigate the world's oceans before people had GPS.