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NORTHERN LIGHTS

Gaze at the lights in the sky

Gloria Spittel finds out where the aurora borealis can best be enjoyed

The northern lights or aurora borealis are those bright and colourful lights that dance in the night skies of the northern hemisphere. They are a natural phenomenon oc­curring as a result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere and electrically charged particles released from the sun.

Blown to the Earth by solar winds, most of these charged particles are deflected by our planet’s magnetic field. However, these fields are weakest at the poles; and as a result, the particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with the gas particles.

The collisions emit light that’s observed as the northern (or southern) lights, which extend anywhere between 80 and 640 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.

These lights appear in patches and streamers while the favoured colours are green and pink. And these colours depend on which particles are involved in the collision – nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red lights while high-altitude oxygen produces red auroras.

Here are some locations from where to view these scintillating sights.

UNITED STATES The clear skies and dark nights make Alaska an optimal location for viewing an aurora. While Fairbanks is particularly suited for this, there are plenty of other places too from where to view these lights. They’re visible all year round but winter months are ideal.

FINLAND From mid-August to early April, auroras appear almost every other night in Finnish Lapland. There are tour companies that offer ‘aurora hunting experiences’ in lavish locations such as glass domed igloos with dips in icy lakes on the side.

ICELAND Viewing an aurora in Iceland comes in many different forms and includes relaxing in thermal pools such as the Blue Lagoon, stays at luxurious lodges, Viking villages, camping in a tent or camper van and hiking in tour groups. Volcanic landscapes and icy waterfalls await exploration in the morning.

GREENLAND For a quieter and less touristy location from where to view the auroras, head to Ilulissat. But since land travel is all but impossible, visitors need to fly out there or take a boat. This means the icebergs and auroras can be viewed without any distractions.

PLANE OR TRAIN Tour companies that offer packages on trains plying between Russia and Norway, and Norway and Sweden, or in Alaska provide a unique aurora viewing experience coupled with other excursions. And a private chartered jet in Canada offers guests a chance to learn about auroras on the flight and have eye level views of the aurora!

Photo by Vincent Guth on Unsplash

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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