The Northern Lights
If you missed out on last winter’s Northern Lights, don’t worry – book now for Winter 2013-2014 places are already filling up fast! If you are travelling with children, why not combine a Christmas trip to Lapland and combine the excitement? Ask me for the best options of where to see the Northern Lights. The rise in popularity of Northern Lights and Arctic Adventure holidays in the past year has been amazing – please book early to get the best choice of dates.
An incredible sight, which astronomers observe on other planets using telescopes and spacecraft, The Northern Lights can be seen on Earth all around the Northern polar region, occuring most frequently in a radius of 2500km from the magnetic north pole. This ‘auroral zone’ extends over northern Scandinavia, Iceland the southern tip of Greenland and northern Canada, Alaska and the north coast of Siberia. The best of the easiest places to get to is northern Norway in the counties of Troms and Finnmark. If you want to do a cruise to see the Northern Lights, I can book you a Norway voyage from many regional airports ask me for details.
The dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis light up polar skies with the best times to see them November and March, though they are visible flickering in the skies right through the Arctic winter, the darkest days of January to March often giving good visibility but can still be seen in April. The auroras occur between 90 – 130 km above sea level but some fo the ray like forms extend up to several hundred kilometres.
These lights are actually solar flares, which burst away from the sun, into space and with a billion times the energy of an atomic bomb! As it travels through space it can take with it swathes of the Sun’s atmosphere and become a giant canonball full of magnetic and electrical forces. Most of these eruptions disappear harmlessly in deep space but a small fraction hit the Earth and spark into the wonderful Aurora which we see in our polar regions.The colours reflect the gases in the earth’s atmosphere the most common yellow-green colour comes from Oxygen. Red colouring occurs when oxygen mixes with nitrogen and violet on the lower edges of the Aurora is due to nitrogen, as is any blue colouring.
There are actually ‘Southern Lights’ too in the Antarctic regions but the only inhabited parts to see them are Tasmania and southern New Zealand. The Earth has a natural magnetic shield which is only weaker at the poles, allowing these particles from the Sun to strike the atmosphere and turn the sky into a fluorescent light show.
For one of the best Northern Lights experiences, head to Lapland and take a night safari with huskies, or travel with reindeer deep into the lands of the Sami people. On a four night break you can enjoy a snowmobile safari, husky safari, herd reindeer and trek in the forests. Northern Norway and Sweden have some amazing wilderness adventure opportunities including Spitsbergen and the Lofoten Islands from which you can see the lights.
There are some fabulous group adventure holidays which include the chance to see the Northern Lights, whilst including snow shoeing, dog sledding and other activities in Finland, Norway and Sweden. Iceland is another great option for wonderful views of this amazing natural light show and can easily be included in a city break there. There is a specialist week long winter tour to Iceland with specialist astronomers which gives you the maximum chance to see the Northern Lights! Or if you want to combine the best chance of seeing the lights with some snowshoeing and glacier explorations head to Iceland on the Snowshoeing trip.
Scientists at NASA are say that Northern Lights sightings have been the best in 50 years in 2013, so book your place with me now for your next winter holiday light show!