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THE NORTHERN LIGHTS WHERE, WHEN & HOW

THE QUESTIONS
Of course just because you have one doesn’t mean there’s an answer. We’ve been asked everything from ‘what time do they turn the Northern Lights on?’ to ‘what’s the difference between them and the Midnight Sun?’ So politician like, our Golden Rule is to ask a different question: what sort of holiday would like even without seeing them. Is an urban city break your thing, do you fancy ‘sleeping on ice’ or 'under glass'; are you up for hardcore snow safaris or is a lazy, luxy weekend for you? Then we  counsel you to put seeing the aurora in the Lap of the Gods. That said here’s our best answer to the where,when,what and how question. 

WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM
Anywhere within a 10 degree latitudinal arc along the Arctic Circle. During geomagnetic storms this arc of visibility expands further South (sometimes as far as Bradford) but you might want to think twice about spending a weekend there! Arctic Norway, Sweden, Finnish Lapland and Iceland are all better bets with good ‘hot spots’ away from light pollution from which to see them at their best. Tromso in Norway and Iceland’s Reykjavik make for an urban city break with all sorts of edgy snow safaris and safari excursions. In Sweden & Finnish Lapland we work with artisan suppliers who mush huskies, snowmobile and drive reindeer sleds in wilderness terrain above which you can keep a look out for the Northern Lights. Bear in mind that visibility is dependent on cloud cover, so any auguries provided by lunar charts, long term isobar charts, moon phase or sun spot activity are all at the mercy of local weather conditions. Take a look at www.scanadventures.co.uk/northern-lights-tours  to get the whole pictures. 

WHEN YOU CAN SEE THEM
Between the Autumn and Spring equinoxes under a cloudless sky and during the dark Arctic Winter nights when the comparatively weak light emitted by the Aurora is more easily seen. Shows are usually quite quick, perhaps no more than 15 minutes or so, and most active between 5 in the evening and 2 in the morning. Most of our untours are designed with day time snow or ice based adventure and sightseeing safaris including snowmobiling, husky mushing, reindeer sledding and ice fishing. Since the Arctic winter proper doesn’t start until the snow falls and settles permanently from late November/December so our Northern Lights untours start around then. The ICEHOTEL, Snow and Igloo Hotels aren’t ready until early/mid December.So for Aurora spotting, anytime from early December is good for Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish Lapland and January onwards for’sleeping in ice’. 

WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE
From outer space like emerald green halos circumscribing both magnetic poles but from the earth’s surface variously like shards of spectrum coloured light jaggedly pointing down from the sky, trailing ribbons of green light in a pathway to a single point on the horizon, swirling concentric circles or like ribboned drapes hanging from an invisible curtain rod above the stars. They can creep up slowly from the horizon like skeletal claws or dance across the night sky at, literally of course, the speed of light. Sometimes they open like time lapse flower photography and at others flutter like an ensign in the wind or pile up as if in the hands of a cosmic juggler. Most commonly visible colours are blue or green at altitudes between 100km to 200km, red above that and crimson lower down. 

WHAT CAUSES THEM
Unless you’re an astrophysicist, cast your mind back to the school lab and the iron filings experiment to show up a magnetic field. Now think of the sun bombarding the earth with something called ions (which if you like are akin to invisible iron filings) that hit the earth’s magnetic field and follow it down to the earth’s poles. Some of these penetrate the upper atmosphere colliding with oxygen and nitrogen atoms which are literally ‘excited’ at being bashed into. Oxygen atoms glow red at high altitudes and green lower down in the atmosphere.Nitrogen ones also glow green at mid altitudes but blue the higher up they are and crimson lower down. 

Here's our Scandi Blog Spot (No 25 Sep 2018) for you to glance over. With a 25 year pedigree in designing Northern Lights Holidays and Travel Designers who are all Scandi natives by birth, we modestly lay claim to an Experience 2nd2 None. It’s that that lies behind each and every one of the holidays we feature and turns them into something of an adventure. And if you can’t see a Northern Lights Holiday to fit your personal purse & passions, who better than a native to design you a Bespoke one?