Chasing Nature’s Light Show: Catching the Northern Lights

Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 29-05-2012

 

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The Aurora B...

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake. ( 64°42′N 148°30′W / °S °W / ; latd>90 (dm format) in latd latm longm : AFB east, Bear Lake west) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are the Northern Lights they sound like something out of a fairy tale. The fantastic ribbons of color illuminating the sky have captivated the human race for centuries. In ancient Finland, the lights were called “Fire Foxes” after the belief a mythical fox was tossing snow into the sky with magnificent sweeps of its tail. In other parts of Scandinavia, the lights were believed to be ancestral souls. To the Algonquin Native Americans, they were the lasting impression of the love of the world’s creator.

The lights are worthy of their splendid tales. The Northern Lights, also called the aurora borealis, are one of the most astonishing sights one could ever hope to see. Catching the show can be a little tricky, but it is well worth the effort.

The Northern Lights can put on an incredible variety of effects. The whole sky may transform with an ever-shifting green or red glow, or you may see dense ribbons of color sending pillars far into the sky. The bands may be straight or swirl, spiral or twist on and on into the horizon like a river. You may see glow stick greens or icy blues, neon reds or a spectacular display of greens, blues, vivid fuchsia and purples all at once like cathedrals of light in the sky.

Aurora borealis is created by the shifts in the Earth’s magnetic fields. As the colors shift, you are literally watching the changes in this magnetic field. The best places to see the effect are along the Earth’s North Magnetic Pole. Most of Alaska, Northern Canada, Iceland, and Northernmost Scandinavia are hot spots.

Plan on packing warm clothes. The lights are most often in play between the autumn and spring equinox, and fall and winter near Earth’s northern pole are cold and snowy occasions. In addition, that far north the days are very short or even nonexistent. The most sun you may see might a little sunrise followed by a sunset and right back into total night. Be prepared to forgo the sun in exchange for your chance at seeing the lights.

On a clear night, the peak of the light show is around 10PM, but sometimes the lights appear as soon as night falls. Many travel destinations cater to those hoping to see the lights, offering cabins or rooms with clear views of the sky. Some will even offer a Northern lights forcast for whether or not the lights are likely on any given evening. Photographing the lights is a difficult task, so if you have your heart set on pictures, be sure you research what equipment you will need.

Because Northern Lights are an unpredictable phenomenon, plan to spend at least a few days at your destination. September and March, the start and finish of peak season, offer the best chances of seeing the lights.

The Northern Lights are an extraordinary and breathtaking experience. It is something everyone should witness in their lifetime, and with good planning and a little luck, anyone can see nature’s light show.

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