What are the Northern Lights and how do they occur?

One of the great wishes of many travelers around the world is to see the Northern Lights. The difficulty in achieving it in the past gave rise to the creation of myths around these astronomical phenomena, but technological advances have made it easier in recent years to travel to see them, thus becoming more popular and accessible.

The greater accessibility to see the northern lights allows dismantling or confirming some best-known myths about it. Even so, there is still a general lack of knowledge about the meaning of this astronomical phenomenon. To discover what the Northern Lights are and how they occur, when and where they can be seen, at dolboard we recommend that you continue reading this article.

What are the Northern Lights

Talking about the northern lights means talking about an astronomical and atmospheric phenomenon that occurs naturally. It consists of a great display of lights through the night sky of the Earth. These lights are visible mainly at the highest latitudes on the planet, so they are easier to observe in countries located at a higher altitude than at sea level.

Technically, the northern lights are lights produced when a series of charged particles, known as cosmic radiation, collide with nitrogen and oxygen atoms present in the magnetosphere (a layer around the Earth whose magnetic field deflects the solar wind, creating a protective shield against high-energy charged particles coming from the Sun).

Thus, the northern lights are the result of billions of energy-containing molecules hitting the planet. These produce small flashes of light at the moment of impact with Earth and are visible only at night.

How auroras occur

The creation of the northern lights occurs when particles emitted by the Sun collide with the magnetic field of planet Earth. These particles are dragged as if they were magnets through the magnetosphere in the direction of the poles. On the way, they collide with nitrogen and oxygen atoms, generating flashes of light due to this collision.

The northern lights form a solar activity that explains the emission of constantly charged particles, sunspots, and flares from the Sun. This type of plasma leaves the Sun and travels through the solar wind. When solar activity increases, the Sun emits more particles than usual, producing what is known as solar storms.

During a solar storm, large displays of Northern Lights created by huge clumps of solar particles can be observed. The northern lights can also be displayed by coronal mass ejections, that is, a wave made of solar wind and radiation given off by the Sun in a period known as Maximum Solar Activity.

How to see the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights can be seen in different ways. At dolboard we give you the following alternatives and recommendations so that you can observe them:

  • Visit one of the northern lights destinations on your own, or book one of the best-organized trips on the entire planet to see them.
  • Before closing all the details of the tour to see the northern lights, consult the forecast of clouds and northern lights of the destination to which you intend to travel.
  • Plan your trip for the best time of year to see the Northern Lights.
  • Try to get as far away from light pollution as possible to better appreciate this natural astronomical phenomenon.
  • To properly observe the Northern Lights, start by looking north.

When to see the Northern Lights

The best time of year to see the Northern Lights is Aurora season. This stage of the calendar is between the end of August and the middle of April in the case of the Northern Hemisphere. As for the Southern Hemisphere, the Aurora season begins in May and ends in September.

Where to see the Northern Lights

The ideal places to see the Northern Lights are in the Aurora Zone. It is an area that is located at a high latitude and in which the visibility of the northern lights is greater.

Regarding the sub auroral zone, that is, the area that is located below the auroral zone, you could also see the northern lights. Even so, for it to be seen in this part, it is necessary for more intense solar activity to occur.

Some of the best places on Earth to see the Northern Lights include:

  • The city of Tromso in northern Norway.
  • The southern part of Iceland.
  • Greenland.
  • The Finnish city of Rovaniemi, that is, the capital of Lapland.
  • Whitehorse, in Canada.
  • Murmansk, in Russia.
  • Tasmanian, in Australia.
  • Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • Kiruna, in Sweden.
  • Dunedin is a city in New Zealand.

Now that you know all this about what the Northern Lights are, how they occur, and how to see them, you may be interested in learning about other phenomena.

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