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Northern lights or Aurora Borealis share a name with the Roman Goddess of dawn, but the northern lights are nothing like any other dawn you would have seen before! The picture in this post shows the northern lights shot close to Tromsø, in Norway, some 300 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle (see recent Tromsø post). The northern lights are caused when charged sub-atomic particles (electrons and protons) enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The sub-atomic particles, have energy liberating interactions with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the atoms to enter ‘excited’ states and emit visible light – the colours observed. If science isn’t your cup of tea, you don’t have to understand what causes the northern lights, to appreciate their staggering beauty… suffice it to understand it’s simply a fantastical and magical display!
Why is Tromsø one of the best places on Earth to see the northern lights?
Visit Norway say Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to see Aurora Borealis, but why fly to Norway when the northern lights have been seen as far south as the (Isle of Man in the British Isles) recently?
- Tromsø is in the middle of the northern lights band, with some of the highest levels of northern lights activity on the planet. Also being so far north, the longer winter nights give you more opportunity to see the lights
- To see the northern lights you need clear skies. Local guides suggest Tromsø has the upper hand here: micro-climates in the region mean if it’s cloudy in Tromsø itself, there is bound to be a close-by area with clear skies. Weather doesn’t have to be a show-stopper. One Tromø based guide, the Aurora chaser, tells you to bring your passport on his tours as Norway’s borders are no barrier to getting you see nature’s greatest show – he has seven years of taking visitors to see the lights even if that means leaving Norway and driving into Sweden or Finland!
- There are many options for seeing the lights in Tromsø, including night cruises and guided tours and even night walks. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the island to see the lights. Get the cable car up above the city, go to the southern coast of the island or even Prestvannet lake which freezes over on the winter.
- Tromsø is awesome in it’s own right, a northern cultural hub in Norway and worth a visit at any time of year!
Planning a northern lights trip? The MET Office in the UK as well as other bodies around the planet monitor solar activity (an important factor in the intensity of the northern lights) – to see the latest forecasts download the app from Visit Norway or visit the Aurora Service EU website.