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.
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
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.