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Whether you call them The Northern Lights or the scientific name, the Aurora Borealis, the dance of the Northern Lights are a spectacular sight that is on many bucket lists. How can you see the Northern Lights in Europe?
What Are The Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are created by electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere. These particles get all charged up in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Mixed up with oxygen and nitrogen atoms, the result is the Aurora Borealis. Seen as magnetic poles, the result is nature’s fireworks. The color is primarily neon green, but with strong hints of bluish-purples or ruby reds.
According to the Library of Congress, the colors have to do with altitude. The lower altitude, bluish-purples are under 60 miles. The most common, neon green is at 60-150 miles. While the ruby reds are above 150 miles. Besides unique colors, the shapes of the Northern Lights can be different. Sometimes they are wispy, or they can look like a big neon puffy marker, lighting up the sky. Sometimes, the Aurora Borealis covers most of the sky in an intricate design, with multiple colors bursting out in slow- motioned sparkles. The shape names are: rippling curtains, pulsating globs, traveling pulses, or steady glows.
Where Can You See The Northern Lights In Europe?
The best way to view the Northern Lights is travel to where the lights can easily be seen without the interference of city light. The closer you get to the Arctic Circle, away from civilization. the better your odds you will see them. While the lights can easily be seen in Canada or Alaska, many choose to venture north to Iceland or Lapland. Travel to exotic frozen locations, such as Iceland, Sweden, Norway, or Finland is ideal.
For example, the Ice Hotel, located just outside of Kiruna, Sweden, is the ice hotel experience. Every year, this Swedish mini ice village invites artists from around the world to create original sculptures and design ice rooms. Because this is a remote area, the Northern Lights can be viewed right there, over the Torne River. If you are not interested in staying the night in an ice room, warm cabins are available.
Another popular place to visit is Abisko. North of Kiruna and the Ice Hotel, near the Norwegian border, Abisko has a unique microclimate that has more cloudless nights and better opportunities to view the Northern Lights. In Finland, there are many glass topped hotel pods to visit, and in Iceland, go glamping in a specially designed tent.
Winter Activities Around Northern Lights
Be sure to include some outdoor activities when you seek out the lights. Take a tour and go dogsledding, horseback riding at midnight or even snowmobiling. Even if the lights decide to be shy and not pop up, you have experienced some outdoor actives and adventure. Of course, be sure to bundle up in warm clothes and boots.
Aurora Borealis Photography
You need a tripod to take photos of the Aurora. Using a DSLR camera, set your camera to manual, or M mode. Set your lens to manual. Turn off the flash. Zoom, focus, and use a remote shutter. The most dramatic photos are those over water.
When To Watch Northern Lights
Because magnetic pole areas experience the extreme of the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights, the earliest time of year you can view the lights is in mid-August and the latest in mid-April. This is when night returns to the pole areas. The Aurora may be active in other times of the year, but the naked eye cannot view the lights unless it is dark outside.
Be sure to check the Aurora Forecast for best days to views. The Aurora Borealis is generally lighting up the sky sometime between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. or thereabouts afterwards. But, do not be afraid to start looking for the lights after 6 p.m., as they can appear early in the evening. Some of the other factors to consider is that weather can affect viewing. But, the biggest obstacle to viewing the Aurora is light pollution of every kind, from street lights, to the full moon.
Even on days that there is a low probability for lights, if the night is clear, go out, walk around and look for activity. You may see the mysterious lights swirl around. Now listen. Do you hear the Aurora? Although some scientists insist that the lights are silent, some people insist they can hear them.
So, when do you plan on finally taking that trip to find and see the Northern Lights?