Chasing the Northern Lights: Where to Witness the Aurora Borealis
The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are one of Mother Nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles. These dancing lights in the night sky are caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. There has been a lot in the media here in Ireland with the Northern Lights seen as far away as Dublin and even Dingle in Kerry! That is a very rate occurrence. I have always been so interested in seeing the Northern Lights ever since I was a kid they fascinated me. I caught my fist glimpse of this amazing natural occurrence in Iceland in 2018 and have been hooked ever since, we were extremely fortunate in being able to see them for 4 out of our 5 nights in Tromso in 2021. If you’re eager to witness this breath-taking phenomenon, here are some of the best places to see the Northern Lights.
1. Tromsø, Norway: The Arctic Gateway
Tromsø, often called the “Gateway to the Arctic,” is one of the prime locations to witness the Northern Lights. Situated in the Arctic Circle, Tromsø offers not only a high likelihood of aurora sightings but also a charming Arctic ambiance. Explore the city by day and embark on guided Northern Lights tours by night for the best chances of catching this natural light show.
2. Abisko, Sweden: A Stargazer’s Paradise
Located in Swedish Lapland, Abisko National Park is renowned for its clear skies and minimal light pollution. The combination of these factors makes it an excellent place to observe the Northern Lights. The Abisko Sky Station offers a unique viewing experience atop Mount Nuolja, with chairlift access and expert guides.
3. Fairbanks, Alaska: Northern Lights in the Last Frontier
Alaska’s Fairbanks is another top destination for Aurora enthusiasts. Its northern location and dry climate create ideal conditions for Northern Lights sightings. Head to spots like Murphy Dome or Chena Hot Springs for a front-row seat to the spectacle.
4. Reykjavik, Iceland: Aurora Over the Land of Fire and Ice
Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, serves as a convenient base for Northern Lights adventures. Venture into the countryside to escape light pollution, and keep an eye on the aurora forecast. The Thingvellir National Park and Vik’s black sand beaches are popular spots for aurora hunting.
How Do the Northern Lights Occur?
The Northern Lights are a result of solar wind, which consists of charged particles, mostly electrons and protons, emitted by the sun. When this solar wind reaches Earth, it interacts with our planet’s magnetic field. These charged particles are guided toward the polar regions by the Earth’s magnetic field lines.
As the charged particles collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, such as nitrogen and oxygen, they release energy in the form of beautiful coloured light. The specific colors produced depend on the type of gas and altitude of the collision. Oxygen typically produces green and red lights, while nitrogen can create purples, pinks, and blues.
The intensity and colours of the Northern Lights can vary, making each display a unique experience. They are typically more vibrant during periods of high solar activity, known as the solar maximum, which occurs roughly every 11 years.
Whether you choose Tromsø, Abisko, Fairbanks, or Reykjavik, witnessing the Northern Lights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Remember to dress warmly, check the aurora forecast, and be patient, as nature’s light show is worth the wait. So, pack your camera and prepare for a mesmerizing journey under the shimmering curtains of the Aurora Borealis.