The best spots to see the northern and southern lights!

By Sergio González | 12:43

The 2009 film Avatar has been one of the greatest blockbusters of all times. We can openly say that the plot was nothing out of this world and neither was the message. However, more than 75 million people in the USA felt Pandora’s call. Was it  the blasting off of 3D, the amazing colors or the endless imagination behind? Pick whatever you want because your own planet, here, where you already live, boasts of far way more captivating and impressive scenery.

Well, maybe this is a little exaggerated to make a point and we are actually thankful that no flying mountain can fall on our heads but the auroras could have perfectly come out of Pandora’s designers’ minds.

Aurora lights are an astronomic phenomenon involving the sun, gravity, and particles  but it’s no bigger deal than lighting up a match. As solar winds approach the Earth dragged by its gravity, the magnetic poles in our planet accelerate them towards north and south, as a shield diverting a fire from a dragon. Our atmosphere protects us from these harmful sun winds and the auroras are the result of it.

The high speed collision of charged particles at this altitude releases tons of energy that sets fire to the atmosphere. As physics teachers try to explain in high school, Earth’s atmosphere is not just oxygen, but many other gases like nitrogen or hydrogen.

Depending on which of these gases flames, the different colours of the auroras. If you are seeing green to brownish, the fuel of the show is oxygen. If you are bestowing your eyes over a blue aurora, Mr. Nitrogen is the sponsor.

Green is the most common of the auroras but it’s usually shorter; sometimes they last under a second so no blinking is recommended. It’s one of the most magical spectacles in the world and you don’t want to miss any of it. No Chinese New Year’s fireworks or Las Vegas light show could ever be this impressive and peaceful.

Aurora Borealis is the scientific name for Northern Lights, coined in 1620 after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of north wind, Boreas. While every country near the North Pole is a good spot, Russia is not among the top ones. You should also know that the cloudy climate in Siberia and Kamchatka decrease your odds.

In North America you should head to either Alaska or Canada and even better if you pick a national park, away from any artificial light. Delani National Park in Alaska and Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories are the most popular spots in North America to see the Northern Lights.

Tromsø, in Norway, is the most famous European destination for aurora seekers. It is a very large city for this latitude -more than 70,000 people living just 200 miles of Arctic Circle- and also where auroras can be said to be seen more often. It’s dark outside most of the year and it hardly ever rains or snows.

Southern lights are visible from Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand but also from Ushuaia, Argentina. Right at the heart of Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia is the last inhabited place before the Antarctic Circle where you can enjoy the aurora australis not only lighting up the sky but also mirroring on ice caps and glaciers.

Among the fun facts related with auroras, we have recently discovered they also happen in other planets, like Jupiter or Saturn, and therefore we can no longer capitalize them. It’s the Pluto drama all over again!

Photo credit: GoToVan

Photo credit: Nick Russill




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