The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that occurs when solar flares hit the Earth’s magnetic fields and flood the atmosphere with charged particles of dazzling colour. Quite unlike any other experience on the planet, witnessing this dancing light display first hand should be on everyone’s to-do list.

Finding the Northern Lights

Finding The Northern Lights in the Arctic sky, is easy when you take a Hurtigruten cruise to Iceland, Greenland or Norway. You need to be as far north as possible, during the winter months and looking in the direction of the North Pole. The cruise is an unforgettable experience, enhanced by on board lectures given by leading astronomers.

What are the Northern Lights?

A dazzling natural phenomenon, The Northern Lights takes place when gas from the sun collides with our planet’s electromagnetic spheres. It causes colourful lights to reach great heights in the night sky. The best way to witness the lights is from on board a Hurtigruten cruise boat in the Arctic or a Saga ‘Magic of the Northern Lights cruise’. A truly unique and memorable experience.

The Brightest Northern Lights in 25 years

Imagine the world’s greatest firework display then times it by a hundred. Now you’re getting closer to imagining how it feels to witness the unearthly majesty that is The Northern Lights. This is an experience that should surely top everybody’s bucket list and there’s a rumour that seeing them first hand is a real possibility this Autumn – even for those living further south than the North Pole.

In October, the Telegraph reported the occurrence of some of the most frequent, spectacular and farreaching Aurora Borealis displays in the last 25 years. Usually the Northern Lights are limited to theskies over the Arctic, but this year, there was a greater chance of seeing them from a more southerly viewpoint. The last time it was possible to witness the aurorae like this was in March 1989 when the sky turned bright red and the lights could be seen as far south as North America and even Cuba.

This has all been due to excessive solar activity. Since 19th October, enormous solar flares of up to 80,000 mile across have been erupting from the sun’s surface. When the particles, that these flares create, hit the Earth’s magnetic field, auroras occur. The protons head in one direction along the magnetic field lines and the electrons in another. Ultimately they end up at the poles, which is where the lights can be seen and those lucky enough to see them will witness dazzling displays of dancing lights in the night sky. It’s an entirely natural phenomenon and one which you’ll remember forever.

Should we be worried about the extra solar activity that’s causing the stunning Northern Lights displays of recent weeks? The New Scientist reported that these flares, which are known as “Xclass” and are categorised as the most intense level of solar flare, are occurring because we are entering the final and declining stage of an 11 year solar cycle. In other words, these flares and the resulting auroras are not unexpected. So there’s no cause for worry.

However, given that the auroras can cause damage to our satellites and electrical power grid, it’s essential that we continue to invest in research into when they will occur and their intensity. In this way we can predict the effects they might have on the technology we rely upon and be ready to solve any problems that may arise.

If you don’t get to see the Northern Lights from your home this Autumn, don’t despair. It is possible to experience it without waiting for another 25 years. If the lights can’t get to you, let us take you to the lights. Hurtigruten cruises run all year round and will take you to the Arctic circle, where you’re pretty much assured a glimpse of dazzling greatness.

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