Planet Earth is a magnificent place to live in, and there are so many of its wonders worth witnessing. One such is the famous aurora borealis or the northern lights. Seeing them is one of the most beautiful nighttime experiences you can have on a trip. You’ve seen hundreds of photos of the dancing green-purple light online, but it’s 100 times better to see it in person. It is a phenomenon found on many people’s so-called travel bucket lists. But that light is so magical that there is no guarantee that you will see it, it is not constant but comes and dances when it wants to. It likes the cold and it likes the night. But some places are better dance floors than others. The best place to watch it is definitely Alaska and its bordering parts of Canada.
Fairbanks, Alaska is a good place to start…
If you are visiting the west coast of the USA, an Alaska cruise from Seattle you can find here can take you on a journey you’ll be remembering for the rest of your life. To see northern lights in Alaska. In the middle of that cold country is the city of Fairbanks, which enjoys the aurora borealis almost every night from August to April. They say that you can see it four out of five nights, so it’s almost certain that you won’t miss it if you decide to board this cruise.
During the day, enjoy wild nature, clean rivers and fascinating mountains, dog sledding, a museum with ice sculptures, or the famous Alaskan vodka.
Northern Canada has so many aurora borealis to choose from. With an area larger than Belgium, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands combined, the Yukon, with only 38,000 inhabitants, is almost uninhabited and pollution is non-existent. Most of the residents live within a 20-minute drive away from the river valley, which is the best hotspot to watch this phenomenon from. You can see the aurora borealis in the north of Canada from August, and the “safest” is to come in December if you want to see this wonder of nature.
What is this phenomenon, and why is it worth seeing at all?
This is a phenomenon that occurs near the earth’s magnetic poles (and therefore also near the poles of rotation) and manifests itself in the form of nebulous streaks of light in various colors.
In order to understand how the aurora is created, we must, first of all, explain what the Earth’s immediate environment looks like in terms of electrical and magnetic characteristics. In addition to the atmosphere with its many layers, the Earth is also surrounded by belts of charged particles. These are the so-called Van Allen belts, which extend from 3840 km to 16000 km above the surface of our planet.
These particles are mainly represented by electrons, protons, and some atomic nuclei. They originate from the Sun. It is known that in addition to radiation, the Sun also emits charged particles that make up the so-called solar wind. When these particles reach the Earth’s vicinity, its magnetic field begins to act on them and thus captures them. These particles have been forced to constantly oscillate between the north and south magnetic poles.
When the Sun’s activity is increased or there are eruptions on the Sun, a greater number of charged particles reach the Earth’s surface, which then disrupts the existing ones. Then some charged particles following the magnetic field lines are directed toward the magnetic poles. It is known that when a charged particle moves in an accelerated spiral around the magnetic field lines (and this is the case) then they emit light. It is this light that represents the Aurora Borealis.
In periods of increased solar activity, an increased intensity of polar light can be expected. In such cases, it is possible to see this phenomenon at lower latitudes. It means that there is a possibility that the aurora borealis can also be seen from multiple regions. It should not be expected to be seen from cities, but on the heights, where the atmosphere is clean and light pollution is low. There have already been such cases in the past, so all those who can try to photograph, record or simply enjoy the beautiful phenomenon in the night sky.
Having explained how and why it occurs is already a good reason to see it. But here are a couple more reasons to put it on your bucket list…
You’ll be experiencing one of the world’s unique weather circumstances
The weather in the areas where it can be seen is just as unpredictable as these lights are. One moment you are witnessing the clearest, bluest sky you’ve ever seen, only to be surrounded by huge snowflakes falling from the sky not long after. Unpredictable, and jaw-droppingly beautiful. It is something no other part of the world has.
Remember to dress accordingly, as well.
Care for a husky sleigh-pulling tour?
The culture of people who inhabit these areas is very authentic, which can be seen from how they perform their daily routines. It includes a very specific means of transportation – dog sledding, and reindeer sledding. A lot of indigenous groups of people living in the north of countries like Finland share the same way of traveling through these remote areas.
And finally, taking some pictures of these lights is a must. The moment is so precious you’d want to freeze it, and make sure you have enough of it to remember every minute. But if you feel like soaking up the beauty by simply staring at nature’s wonder at its best, see if you can find someone with a good camera, and ask them to share what they captured with you.
Aurora Borealis is truly magical. So, fetch your bucket list, and add one more item to it.