Northern Lights – an extraordinary sight to see and a dream for every traveller. Northern lights, a phenomenon scientifically known as the Aurora Borealis in the northern hemisphere and Aurora Australis in the southern hemisphere is one of the most vibrant and must see natural sights on earth. This outwardly occurrence happens due to the collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights, generally observed in green and pink colour, are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. It is a beautiful dance show of natural of light, every performance being different, a beautiful, shifting dance of nocturnal rainbows that many viewers find a humbling and spiritually rejuvenating experience.
Other than the shades of green and pink, the northern lights can also be seen in colours like red, yellow and blue. The most common aurora colour, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. The rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora. The lights of the Aurora generally extend from 80 kilometres (50 miles) to as high as 640 kilometres (400 miles) above the earth’s surface. Generally, this phenomenon can be seen from 9PM to 12 AM, depending on the local time as well as daylight savings.
Now that you know all the science behind this extraordinary phenomenon, let me tell you about the best places you can see the Northern Lights. Northern Lights can be seen in the northern or southern hemisphere, in an irregularly shaped oval centred over each magnetic pole. Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colours. The best place in Europe for northern lights is Svalbard, which is a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean about half way between continental Europe and the North Pole. But there is actually a thing as too far north, and unfortunately Svalbard falls into that category. If the geomagnetic activity is very low and there are no auroras anywhere in continental Europe, chances are Svalbard is having a great show. The reason for this is because Svalbard is so hideously north, it registers aurora activity with the slightest whiff of geomagnetic activity. Strictly scientifically speaking and only using geomagnetic readings, the northern parts of Norway and Finland are best. In Norway, this spectacular view can be seen in Hammerfest, Vardø, Alta, Tana Bru, and Tromsø. Other than these places, one may also see the northern lights in Iceland, Southern tip of Greenland, Northern Canada and parts of Alaska.
Aurora Australis, the Southern counterpart of the Aurora Borealis can also be seen but much of it occurs over Antarctica, having penguins as the only spectators.
Northern Lights are a phenomenon that is unusual yet beautiful. They are worth every penny you spend. Every person who gets the chance to see this should not miss the opportunity! So when do you plan on spending the night under the stars?
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