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The Northern Lights

February 16, 2016

northern lights from space

An aurora borealis or northern lights are bright, natural dancing lights that are usually seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemisphere. The lights are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora australis’ in the south. The form of the aurora is dependent on the amount of acceleration imparted to the precipitating particles. It appears in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow. It is most clearly seen at night against a dark sky. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.

red northern lights

Moreover, ‘Aurora borealis’, the lights of the northern hemisphere, means ‘dawn of the north’. ‘Aurora australis’ means ‘dawn of the south’. In Roman myths, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn. Many cultural groups have legends about the lights. In medieval times, the occurrences of auroral displays were seen as harbingers of war or famine. The Maori of New Zealand shared a belief with many northern people of Europe and North America that the lights were reflections from torches or campfires. The Menominee Indians of Wisconsin believed that the lights indicated the location of manabai’wok (giants) who were the spirits of great hunters and fishermen. The Inuit of Alaska believed that the lights were the spirits of the animals they hunted: the seals, salmon, deer and beluga whales. Other aboriginal peoples believed that the lights were the spirits of their people.


Furthermore, there are tourist activities for it. Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Greenland, Canada and Alaska all offering excellent locations to see the northern lights.


This stunning volcanic island captivates visitors at any time of year, but the winter months have a special charm with the added bonus of the northern lights. Possibly the most convenient and affordable aurora destination to visit from the UK, it’s easily explored both independently and on small groups tours that get you away from the bright lights of Reykjavik to prime countryside locations.

reykjavik-northern lights


Swedish Lapland offers some of the best opportunities for viewing the northern lights With plenty of time for optional activities through the snow-covered landscapes, you could enjoy the winter light of Lapland with evenings spent in anticipation of the aurora borealis.

22 Mar 2009, Abisko, Sweden --- Northern lights (aurora borealis) seen in late March from Abisko Mountain Station, Abisko, Lapland, Arctic Sweden, Scandinavia, Europe --- Image by © Kim Walker/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

22 Mar 2009, Abisko, Sweden


The north of Norway is a land of wide open spaces and little light pollution offering superb opportunities for seekers of the northern lights.

Norway northern lights


Log cabins set amidst the brilliant white snow and pine forests of Finnish Lapland provide the truly splendid backdrop for watching the aurora borealis. Head high above the Arctic Circle into the pristine wilds of Lapland where good opportunities for viewing the northern lights can be combined with a range of exhilarating activities offering the perfect winter escape.

Snowland Rovaniemi


With Canada extending into the Arctic Circle, some of the more northerly provinces lie well within the aurora belt.

Canada-Yukon Northern lights


The snow-covered landscape of Alaska provides a spectacular backdrop for a winter adventure as well as the opportunity to see the northern lights. Spend time in a resort, where evening excursions are often included to maximise your chance of seeing the aurora, or head into the Arctic Circle on the famed Dalton Highway to a remote camp right beneath the auroral oval.



Though less accessible during the true winter months than our other aurora destinations, Greenland offers some exciting options during the shoulder seasons. Combine a search for the aurora borealis on an adventure cruise along Greenland’s east coast and into Scoresby Sund, departing in September or enjoy a thrilling husky adventure in East Greenland during March and April

greenland northern lights

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2016 3:03 pm


  2. lfish64 permalink
    February 17, 2016 6:41 pm

    So interesting, the northern lights have come as far south as Utah before. I want to see them in Alaska.

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