The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon more commonly found in movies or travel brochures. Yet very few people have a true understanding of what they are or where to find them. If you are interested in seeing these beautiful mysterious lights dancing across the night sky, you’ll be pleased to know that they are just a few hours flight away.
What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights, also often known as the Aurora Borealis, occur when there are solar explosions and particles are thrown out into space from the sun. As those particles meet up with the Earth's magnetic shield, they are drawn to the North Pole. When this happens, the particles interact with different layers in the atmosphere. This results in the mysterious lights that we hear so much about, that are the result of the energy that is released when this interaction occurs. The colours of the lights vary but there are most often a combination of greens, pinks, yellows and occasionally violet.
Where can they be seen?
The Northern Lights can only be seen in few key places in the world. If you want to see them, you will need to head north to Scandinavia, Iceland or Canada. One hotspot is Norway and to some extent, you can see the northern lights from just about anywhere in Norway, but the best view is offered in northern Norway, just above the Arctic Circle. Once up there, you will want to position yourself somewhere on the northern light belt which runs from the Lofoten Islands all the way to the North Cape, more details on this site. Often the lights are most viewable from inland areas due to the fact that they experience drier weather and therefore tend to have clearer skies. Check the local weather forecast as eastern winds make the coastal areas a better viewing spot.
When can they be seen?
There’s a palpable excitement around spotting the Northern Lights right now as autumn 2013 is set to yield a double peak. The lights are about to hit their historical, eleven year peak according to NASA resulting in an unmissable spectacle known as Solar Maximum. If you can’t get to Scandinavia in the next few months, statistically, the best time to spot the Northern Lights is between late autumn and early spring when the lights occur the most frequently. During this time, it is usually dark between 6pm and 1am which can also increase your chances. Try to avoid periods during full moon and areas with too much light pollution, which will hinder your chances.
Are there multiple ways to view them?
If you want to make your trip a little more memorable, you can view the northern lights in a variety of ways. If you want to see the lights at sea, you can book one of several ships that are available. You can also take a snowmobile safari, go dog sledding, attend presentations, or take a skiing trip. No matter when you decide to go or what you plan to do while you are there, be sure to dress accordingly for the weather and plan to spend at least a week in either Norway, Finland or Sweden as this will increase your chances of seeing the ever famous northern lights.