Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Northern Lights of Lapland? - Sadly..not so likely this year!

I have a little more time on my hands now, so I hope to blog a bit more for you all. I apologise for being quiet over the last couple of weeks!

As you may recall, I recently showed you a beautiful photograph taken by my friend Sally, who is British but also lives here, in Sodankylä. Her husband Thomas, works at the local Geophysical Observatory in Tähtelä, Sodankylä, which is literally less than a five minute drive from my home. Thomas, a Geophysicist is Head of the Aeronomy Unit and amongst other things, he studies and teaches about the Aurora Borealis.

Although there was a research station operating in Sodankylä as early as 1882-1884, the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory was not fully established until 1913. It is an impressive place, with a HUGE Eiscat radar dish as seen in the two images below! It performs continuous measurements of magnetic field, magnetic pulsations, cosmic radio noise, upper atmosphere radio soundings, ionospheric tomography, seismic recordings and cosmic rays. That is an outstanding list in my view!

© Thomas Ulich

© Thomas Ulich

As Thomas says on his web pages " The Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory has a digital camera with a special lens which can see the whole sky from horizon to horizon. Whenever it is dark enough, it takes one picture of the night sky per minute. The image will tell you whether there are Northern Lights visible above Sodankylä. If you see the lights at the lower edge of the image, they are about 300 km south of Sodankylä, i.e. they are just above Oulu! Of course, it might be cloudy in Sodankylä but clear in Oulu -- or vice versa ".

I would add an image, to show you what it looks like, but all images from their site are under copywrite and I've not had time yet to request permission to add one. In the meantime their link is below - which you can view the nightly images from. With this almost live camera you can see lots of activity as it is happening (IF it is happening!) Which is great of course, if you can't afford to dash up here to view the Aurora Borealis in the flesh! :D If you refresh the image every minute or so, when there is activity, you can get some idea of just how beautiful, quick moving and truly unbelievable a good Auroral display can be!

© Thomas Ulich

Rainbow Aurora Arctic Fox Postcard

The Aurora Borealis, also known by many as the Northern Lights, is know by Finns as Revontulet. It stems from an ancient belief that the colours flying in the sky, were actually created by an Arctic Fox's tail sweeping across the snows in the far, far north and creating colourful sparks. There is an old, old word for Fox, now defunct, which is Repo, but in the Finnish language the P will change to a V, if there are other additions to the stem word. The N makes the word possessive as in Fox's and Tulet means Fires (in the plural form). The word for Fox these days, is however Kettu. I think that Revontulet is such an evocative and poetic word, I love it. I also love watching it and have been fortunate enough to do so on many occasions!

© Thomas Ulich

Sadly though, the real reason for the Aurora Borealis is nothing to do with the romanticism of a Fox's tail! The energy source of the Aurora is the Solar winds that are flowing past Earth, that arrive around 40 hours after leaving the Sun. It is drawn to the Earth's magnetic poles, hence why up here you get a good view of it! It is caused by charged particles hitting our atmosphere and being excited by the various gases, at the various levels of atmosphere/magnetosphere/ionosphere etc.. hence why there are different colours, each one caused by a different gas excitement! They might look like they are all together, but actually are higher up or lower down than another colour!

Contact with Oxygen or Nitrogen at different altitudes causes these colours:
Green Aurora - Oxygen, up to 150 miles
Red Aurora - Oxygen, above 150 miles
Blue Aurora - Nitrogen, up to 60 miles
Purple/Violet/Amethyst Aurora - Nitrogen, above 60 miles

This image shows the Earth's magnetic field stretched out due to the solar wind. When I see this it always reminds me of an Angel shape! Just like a spiritual energy protection!

Currently however, there are few Auroric displays to be seen, because there is little activity in the sun's spots.

© Thomas Ulich

A recent article on the YLE website of Finland, (the equivalent of the BBC for Finns) indeed covered this matter albeit in brief and it said:

"There haven’t been many sightings of northern lights in Lapland this winter. According to the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, the scarcity of northern lights is due to very few sunspots. Tauno Turunen, director of the observatory, says the last time the sun was this passive was nearly 100 years ago, in 1913. He explains that the sun is active in cycles, but scientists can't predict how long these cycles last".

© Thomas Ulich

Thomas himself, also has several other fascinating pages of interest!
Visit here, to view more of his Auroral images!

You can also see two video's of the Aurora Borealis and get an idea of how it a photograph is one thing, but if you have never been lucky enough to witness one first hand, you don't generally realise how much it can move!

And finally, if you have a few minutes to spare.. do watch this short movie from an astronaut above Earth, who filmed the Aurora Borealis over Canada. Fantastic!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hyvää Ystävänpäivää! - Happy Friend's Day! - Valentine's Day!

Today's date is February 14th, known around the world as Valentine's Day. It is of course, to many in the West, a day when couple exchange messages and tokens of love, sometimes as a hidden love! Cards, flowers, chocolate or other gifts are often given.

The history of Valentines day is shrouded in mystery...(much like the fine art of LOVE itself!) .. and there are several view on it.. Some say it was originally a Pagan festival, renamed after two Christian martyrs, who were named Valentine. The Catholic Church also recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred!

Another legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

It is said that Valentine actually sent the first 'Valentine' greeting himself. Whilst in prison, it is believed that he fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today.

In England King Henry VIII declared February 14th the king's official holiday in 1537 and many Valentine's Day customs and beliefs have come from England, spreading later to America.

The day is most associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "Valentines". Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid.

"When will we meet again, my friend?"

However, in Finland... the day is NOT EXACTLY the same! I don't know the how or the why's behind it.. but I suspect that it came across from Finns that had emigrated to America... but here in Finland, this is not just a day for is a day for Friendship, pure and simple.

What I do know is that this day has only been celebrated in Finland since the mid-1980s, and that it has only been on official calendars since 1987! At first it was mostly children and young people that favoured the event but subsequently, the Heart Association, the Red Cross and the Post Office have all inspired the tradition amongst adults - with great success.

Whilst, I can find lots of sweet Ystävänpäivää cards, it is quite hard to find a Valentines card here... I generally have to hand make one for my husband! Still, I enjoy that and it's how it was prior to commercialisation! He, however always manages to find something with roses or hearts on - but it generally has a blank interior - no Valentine words - and of course they wouldn't be in English anyway!

A tradition phrase here is - Kolme sanaa sinulle, ole ystävä minulle! Three words to you, be a friend to me! (LOL.. which translates as five words in English!)

Muumi cards...
Finnish tradition for children and young-at-heart adults alike!

Here girls and boys give cards to each other, but many girls give cards to each other. We all got a card from my friend Minna..a friend to us all, along with four large chocolate cakes filled with strawberry mousse - YUMMY! Thanks Minna!

"You're the best! It's great that you are around!"

Oikein hyvää ystävänpäivää kaikille ystävilleni!
(A really Happy Friends Day to all of my friends!)


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Employment and a beautiful image of Sodankylä!

Again, I have been on the missing list for a while.

Been suffering with a terrible chesty cold and flu symptoms. This time, I had to give in and go to bed. Normally, I keep on going.. but this time, no. I had what felt like an elephant living on my chest.. and as there aren't many to the pound of those in Lapland.. I knew something was VERY wrong! So, off to my bed it was! We aren't normally a family to come down with this sort of thing wholesale, but this nasty bug has done the rounds with us twice since before Christmas!

Ok.. what else can I up date you with... oh yes, my son Jake has got himself a job! His FIRST ever job actually :D

As I've probably mentioned before, it is very hard to get work in Finland as an immigrant. However, he got an interview over the phone for a part time job and just casually left out the fact that he was British. I told him that would be best.. that if his Finnish was good enough (which we all know it is) it wouldn't even be questioned. He used the Finnish version of his name when he called... which is pronounced like 'Yakkay' and I truly detest it! He is ok with it though and I guess that is what matters. To me he is Jake, his given birth name after all. Anyway... I digress.

It was only half way through the interview itself that he told them.. and apparently they were somewhat surprised! As he pointed out... 'That's why I have an odd surname!'

It's a telesales job, selling magazine and newspaper subscriptions - which are quite a popular thing here - but even still it is not the easiest of jobs.. not even for a native. It takes a certain kind of 'something' to be happy doing that role. We have explained this to him, to be ready for a lot of 'no thankyou!'s and more extreme answers LOL.. and he is happy to give it a try. It will be, if nothing else, a good experience for him. His first paid job! He starts on Monday after school. It is for a minimum of 15 hours a week. He hopes to do it also during the summer holiday, before starting college.

I am.. no, WE are, both very proud of him! His Finnish IS excellent though! Such an achievement. Only today, I was reading a site that is advertising (during 2009) the problems of Finnish immigrants getting work. The following link page is in english.

As it says:
'With 132,000 immigrants compared to its more than five million inhabitants, Finland has fewer people of foreign descent than any other country in Europe. Immigrants' unemployment rate is three times higher than that of other Finns'. High language requirements, prejudices and discriminating attitudes among employers make it really difficult for immigrants to get a job here, no matter how hard they try or how highly educated they are'.

It's good to see it in black and white.. I was beginning to think I was imagining it! So, yes.. a VERY well done Jake! He is a very social 16 year old!

I personally, also got myself a short term / part time hotel job during January and February...because there is often many people in town during that time of the year and there is extra help needed. Even still, I was only going to be employed if my Finnish was good enough. My Finnish is nowhere near as good as Jake's. I was delighted to get my little job. Some extra money at the quiet part of the year online!

Jobs for foreigners ARE rare!

I will leave you now.. with a FANTASTIC image of Sodankylä, taken by a fellow Brit, living here in Sodankylä. Sally took this wonderful photograph in November, of the Kitinen river, from the shore of her beach sauna at Tähtelä (A local geophysical obvservatory that I will write about soon). The Kitinen is just one of two rivers that winds through the town. As you can see... it is of course frozen solid right now!

Isn't it wonderful? Great photo Sally! (Oh and btw..Happy Birthday to you Sally too!)
'Paljon Onnea Vain' as they sing in the Finnish!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Heavenscent CHARITY soaps for GOSH Great Ormand Street

Just in time for Valentine's Day a very good friend of mine, who trades under the ID of Heavenscent is having a fundraiser. I wanted to share this information with you all as it such a worthy cause!

All Heavenscent's HEART soaps are CHARITY SOAPS
and from 1st February - 1st April 2009
100% of the sale price will be donated to:
The Cardiac Ward Great Ormand Street Hospital for children, London

So EVERY heart soap sold will help save lives.
The FULL sale price will be donated (excluding Postage and Packing costs).

Heavenscent will even absorb the costs of Paypal herself, so the full 100% purchase price will go to this wonderful cause!

These are her own handmade creations. I actually buy a lot of her wares and I whole heartedly recommend her soaps, candles and bath bombs!

These Heart shaped natural glycerin soaps shown below are made with Organic Ylang Ylang essential oils. Used as an aphrodisiac, this sexy seductive oil is irresistible and will melt even the coldest of hearts. Made with magical Mica colours these heart soaps shimmer and shine.

These are the latest in Heavenscent's ever blossoming range and very special soaps they are indeed! The GOSH Heart charity soaps are available in chunky 75g or cute 35g guest sizes. The fragrance range includes Ylang Ylang, Vanilla, Jasmine, Melissa, Patchouli, Lavender, Grapefruit and Rose Absolute Organic Essential oils - although if you would like another fragrance, she is generally happy to oblige.

Have a heart and help save lives!

Heavenscent herself, has a very young son, who was born with some very complicated heart issues and has therefore found herself and her son, many times over, under the graceful care of the fantastic surgeons and staff of Great Ormand Street Hospital. A truly worthwhile cause and one that's naturally very close to her heart.

These special people save lives by mending and maintaining broken hearts on a daily basis. They need all the help we can give them so, this Valentines day, buy a Heavenscent Heart for your loved one and in doing so you will be helping to mend an unwell child's broken heart as well.

Just 25p can buy a small face plaster that babies need to keep the oxygen tubes up their tiny noses...if not, they pull them out with their little hands, bless! So, every penny really does count!!

Just search GOSH in the search engines to see the full range of charity heart soaps being offered by Heavenscent, or visit her shop via this link:

PLUS: When you make your purchase - mention that you came via my blog and I will personally donate an extra 20% of whatever your GOSH purchase was to the cause.

So, buy, buy, buy!