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Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are created by our sun. Large explosions and flares cause massive quantities of solar particles which are thrown out from the sun into deep space. The particle clouds travel through space around 300 to 1000km per second. With earth being approximately 93millon miles away it can take these cloud of particles about two to three days to hit the earth’s magnetic field.

Scientists can see these explosions on the sun using satellites and can predict them approximately two or three days before. There is usually activity every day, but it depends on the strength of the particles as to how strong the Northern Lights glow.

When the solar particles are captured by the earth’s magnetic field, they are guided towards the earth’s two magnetic poles: The geomagnetic North Pole and the Geomagnetic South Pole. (This is how we get the name the Northern Lights and Southern Lights.)

On the way to the poles our atmosphere acts like a huge shield and protects us from these potentially dangerous particles. When the particles collide with our atmospheric gases it causes collision energy between the solar particles and gas molecules, it is then emitted as a Photon, (a light particle) and when this is produced on a massive scale, you then have an Aurora light, or Northern Light which appears to dance across the night sky.

See the phenomenon yourself when you find your Aurora hunting tour with our range of Northern Lights holidays, or check out our Northern Lights holiday ideas for a little guidance on what types of break we offer.

The Auroral Zone

The Auroral oval represents the area of earth where the Southern and Northern Lights occur in their highest intensity. A Swiss physicist called Herman Fritz in 1881 wrote a book called “Das Polarlicht”. He showed that the Northern Lights have maximum affect close to 67 degrees north. He called this belt the Auroral Zone.

The study of the Northern and Southern Lights has gone on through the years and today we monitor events using images sent by satellites. The Auroral oval is fixed in space with reference to the sun. As the earth revolves, the Auroras change accordingly.

Where to see the Northern Lights

Under normal conditions the Aurora oval covers many places in the Northern Hemisphere. They usually include:

- Northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard

- Northern parts of Alaska and the USA

- Northern and central parts of Canada

- Northern parts of Russia

When the Northern Lights Occur

- The Northern Lights are most frequent and intense from 22:00 to midnight magnetic time

- Northern Lights are more frequent in early spring and late autumn. October, November, February and March are the best viewing months in the north of Scandinavia

- The Northern Lights appear 30% less during Solar Minimum than Solar Maximum.

- The Northern Lights can be seen as far south as the Mediterranean, but this only happens when solar activity is extremely high, maybe once in every 100 years.

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