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Whether in real-life or in pictures, we’ve all seen them. Bright hues of green, blue, pink and yellow dancing against the dark night sky. Many of us dream of seeing the Northern lights in person one day.
The official name of these enchanting polar lights is Aurora. It is a natural light displayed in the earth’s sky mostly seen in the polar regions. Northern lights or ‘aurora borealis’, are the lights seen in the northern hemisphere and ‘aurora australis’ are seen in the southern hemisphere.
But what actually causes these mysterious dancing lights? Simply put, the aurora lights are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun and gas molecules in the earth’s atmosphere. The solar particles enter the earth’s atmosphere through solar wind. When these charged particles from the sun collide with gas particles in the earth’s atmosphere, it produces somewhat of an explosion and emits light of varying color and complexity.
The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish green or orange-red, is produced by high-altitude oxygen molecules being released from the collision. Blue or purplish red hues are produced by nitrogen.
The auroras can be seen in an area called the aurora zone or band. The aurora australis is visible in high southern latitudes such as Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. The aurora borealis is most frequently visible in Northern Scandinavia in countries such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada.
There are a few things that you can do to ensure the best chances of seeing this light spectacle. Due to a decrease in solar activity, chances of seeing the auroras will be highest in the northern hemisphere. So it’s advisable to travel to Northern Scandinavia for your best bet. Also, to ensure you’ll see the lights at their very best, you’ll need to make sure that you are in an area with little to no light pollution. Artificial light from cities or resorts will make the auroras dull, possibly to a point where they’re barely visible.