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Northern Lights

Northern Lights

The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights are on many people’s bucket list and are one of the world’s most amazing natural wonders. Starting out as energy emitted by the sun, the solar wind and particles race towards earth a many miles per second before colliding with our planets atmosphere. Our unique planet has, over many years, developed a atmosphere of mainly nitrogen and oxygen specially adapted to protect the planet from some of the harmful rays that come from the sun. However it is when these very gasses interact with the solar wind that the Aurora occur, creating vivid green, pink, red and sometimes even blue Aurora. As the atmosphere and the planet’s magnetic field interact with the solar wind, earth’s magnetic field is actually pulled towards the poles of the planet which is why the Auroras are best viewed in the north, and is why you will find our Great Aurora Chases in the best locations to see the Aurora.

The Magic of the Aurora

Take it from us when we say that seeing the Aurora with your own eyes is an experience that you will never forget. The colour, the movement and the excitement of seeing them is something that never gets tiring. Every Aurora is unique so two Aurora shows are never the same. Whether it’s the different colours, shapes, or position in the sky you never know what you are going to see. Just like many other encounters with nature, the Aurora is never guaranteed and this is why our Great Aurora Chase is one of the best ways for you to increase your chances and go home with your first experience of the Aurora.

What are the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights originate from our Sun. With a complex network of gas currents, changeable magnetic field and a surface temperature that rises and falls, sunspots are created. Sunspots are areas of unstable activity on the surface of the Sun, from which particles of plasma, known as solar wind, is shot into into space.

40 hours after leaving the sun, the solar wind reaches Earth hits our own magnetic field which directs the energy towards our polar regions where it interacts with atoms and molecules of oxygen, nitrogen and other elements in our upper atmosphere resulting in the dazzling display of lights in the sky.

How Aurora work

What causes the colours?

The colour of the Northern Lights is dependent on the gas in our atmosphere that is reacting with the solar wind, the type of collision and the altitude at which it happens. Typically, oxygen causes green and yellow aurora and interactions with nitrogen produce red, violet, and occasionally blue colours. Green Northern Lights typically appear up to 150 miles (241 km) in altitude with red above 150 miles; blue usually appears at up to 60 miles (96.5 km); and purple and violet above 60 miles.

Where to see the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are visible in an area called the Auroral Oval. This forms a ring around the magnetic North Pole concentrated between 65 -72 degrees latitude. However, depending on the strenght of the solar activity the northern lights can often be seen outside these latitudes as well. This makes countries such as Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland all well positioned for a Northern Lights holiday.

When to see the Northern Lights?

The Aurora can be seen any time between September and March and can be visible from when it gets dark to when the sun starts to rise, although the best hours are normally between 9pm and midnight.