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Chasing the Northern Lights

By Laura Blake

Posted: 4th March 2014 14:53

You don’t have to be Brian Cox to know that the Northern Lights (call them the aurora borealis when you want to sound clever) is one of nature’s greatest miracles. 

Thanks to its name, many assume that the best place to see this natural light show is in the North Pole, but they’re wrong.  (Now for the fun science bit.)  This dizzying light display is caused when charged particles from the sun’s solar wind interact with earth’s magnetic field.  Now, you might not care too much about the facts – too intrigued are you by the vivid green, rich blue and iridescent purple streaks that shimmer across the sky – but what you should definitely know is that the aurora borealis forms an irregular doughnut-shaped ringaround the magnetic pole, meaning the best place to catch a glimpse of this breathtaking spectacle is in the Arctic Circle.  Of all the prime European locations – Sweden, Iceland and Finland, for example –Norway is the considered the best. 

 The borealis belt hits northern Norway with its full force, lighting up the sky all the way from the Lofoten Islands to North Cape.  And that’s a distance of around 600 miles, meaning that no other place on earth offers so many chances of catching a glimpse of the lights, from all angles.  Because it would be incredibly stupid not to capitalise on this fantastic location, Northern Lights tours are more readily available than a (insert innuendo here.) It’s pretty hard to predict when the lights will make an appearance, but the unofficial ‘aurora season’ runs from September to March.  And travellers of 2014 are in luck – auroral activity peaks every 11 years, and we just happen to be slap bang in the middle of its current peak. 

The city of Tromsø is a great place to begin your tour; boat tours are a preferred option, as you can leave light pollution behind.  Cross your fingers for clear skies and have your camera at the ready – this is one sight you’re never going to want to forget.

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