What are Northern Lights?
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora australis’ in the south.
Auroral displays appear in many colours although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear 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.
What causes the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. 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 100km above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 300km. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.
Where is the best place to watch the Northern Lights?
Northern Lights can be seen in the northern or southern hemisphere, in an irregularly shaped oval centred over each magnetic pole. Areas that are not subject to ‘light pollution’ are the best places to watch for the lights. Areas in the north, in smaller communities, tend to be best, like Ylläs.
When is the best time to watch for Auroral displays?
Winter in the north is generally a good season to view lights. The long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights provide many good opportunities to watch the auroral displays, the time of night doesn’t matter that much just that it’s clear night and dark.
Our Snowshoe trip to find the Northern lights