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Bright Night Lights

Northern LightsIf you’ve ever been lucky enough to witness the Northern Lights, you’ll know what an incredible sight they are – multi-coloured, ghost-like apparitions streaking and flashing across the night sky.

NASA scientists have been studying the effect for years and predict that 2012 will be the best display of the aurora borealis for 50 years. Since 2007, they have been growing in intensity and will peak next year. The event will be caused by the Solar Maximum – a period when the sun’s magnetic field on the solar equator rotates at a slightly faster pace than at the solar poles.

So, what are the Northern Lights?Northern Lights
When fast-moving charged particles from the sun (the solar winds) collide with our atmosphere’s air molecules, the energy produced is emitted as light. Much of the Earth is shielded by our magnetic field but at the poles, this phenomenon (Well spotted, Halina!) can be clearly seen. These lights appear anywhere between 40 and 600 miles above the surface as rings of light, the auroral ovals, around the poles, though they often extend as far south as Scotland. In 2012, it is predicted they should be visible as far south as Rome. (In 1958, they were seen in Mexico!)

However, the best place to see them – almost guaranteed in 2012 (I said, almost!*) – is above the Arctic Circle, possibly on a night-time jeep tour onto a black-sand beach near Reykjavik in Iceland; or, on a guided night-time excursion with a local knowledgeable guide out into the darkened wilderness away from the bright lights of Tromsø in Norway.

Alternatively, head to the wilds of Finland for a week at the wonderful Ylläshumina Hotel, which provides an Aurora Alert service – they come and wake you up during the night if the Lights appear! Don’t worry, it’s not compulsory – you can stay snug in your bed if you wish – but you really will be missing out on something very special.

A final option would be to spend time in the forests of northern Sweden on an authentic Lapland adventure – try your hand at dog-sledding, go for a snowmobile excursion through the pristine forest where reindeer roam freely, or immerse yourself in a rejuvenating outdoor hot-tub as the amazing celestial pyrotechnics soar and flash across the sky. Heavenly!

(*PLEASE NOTE: The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a natural phenomena and, as such, are completely unpredictable. We cannot absolutely guarantee that you will see them, but if you choose a guided excursion, your guide will take you to where the prevailing conditions for the aurora are most promising. Also, the further north you are, the better the chances.)

Northern Lights, Norway

Posted: 27/09/2011 11:33:27 by | with 3 comments
Filed under: Iceland, Lapland, nature, Norway, photography, snow


Comments
Peter, Inntravel
Thanks Halina, I've amended accordingly.
05/10/2011 09:23:45

Halina Damato
Thanks for the wonderful description. Just FYI, "phenomena" is plural; singular is "phenomenon." Do I get a prize?
04/10/2011 15:46:23

Peter, Inntravel
My esteemed colleague, Rebecca, has just pointed out that Iceland is, in fact, south of the Arctic Circle, not above it as implied here. It just seems the sort of place that should be...
29/09/2011 09:22:56

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