There is barely a bucket list out there which does not have ‘see the Northern Lights’ on it. This comes as no surprise really. After all, the Northern Lights are absolutely stunning. Of course, this is a natural phenomenon and, over time, it does go through peaks and troughs. This means that there are only a few select times where it really is worth seeing them. We are now in the midst of one of those times. If you do not go and see the Northern Lights this year, you won’t get another chance to see them in ‘all their glory’ for a while.
For thousands of years, the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis as they are sometimes known, have fascinated mankind. People trekked for thousands of miles just to see these lights. Intertwined with Norse mythology, the Northern Lights were believed to be valiant Valkyries, riding through the skies, their armour letting out a glow as they do. Of course, now we know that the Northern Lights are a scientific event, but this goes to show just how much this light display has had an impact on humanity. If you get to see them, you really are amongst the luckiest people in the world.
The Northern Lights are created by solar winds. The sun pumps out solar winds, at 1 million miles per hour. These winds take about 40 hours to reach our planet. As they hit the atmosphere, an electrical reaction happens. The electrons which are created by these solar winds stir up the various gases that are floating around the atmosphere. This reaction causes them to glow in a plethora of different colours.
The reason why you need to see the Northern Lights now is because these displays are cyclical. Solar wind activity from the sun is not always constant. It tends to peak every eleven or so years. This doesn’t mean that the lights just disappear for years at a time. It simply means that they are rarer and nowhere near as bright. The last peak was in 2013.
At the moment, we are currently in the ‘winding down’ process of the Northern Lights. This means that they are still fascinatingly bright, but as time goes on, they are losing a little bit of that edge. If you leave it any later than 2016 to see the Northern Lights, then you won’t be able to see them in their full glory 2024, which is an incredibly long time away. This is why it is suggested that you view the lights sooner as opposed to later, particularly if it is on your bucket list.
Whilst there are a number of places that you can see the aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere, there is no better place to head than Scandinavia, in particular Swedish Lapland. This is because this area is incredibly close to the magnetic north pole, which is where the lights are at their brightest. The area also tends to be incredibly dark during the winter, which means you will be able to experience the true brightness of the event.