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How do the Northern Lights appear?

Industry: Tourism/Vacation

Recent publicity of the Northern Lights has led many people to travel north in the hope of seeing the aurora for themselves but few know what to expect.

UK (PRUnderground) April 3rd, 2013

Recent publicity of the Northern Lights has led many people to travel north in the hope of seeing the aurora for themselves but few know what to expect.

One of the exciting aspects of watching the Northern lights is that no two nights are the same but whilst their appearance is different each night there are some general patterns which commonly occur. Early in the night an auroral arc builds in the northern sky extending from North East to North West. The arc often remains quiescent for a period but can suddenly brighten and become animated if a rich seam of particles enters the atmosphere. When this happens the arc becomes more defined with bright and dark rays moving along it. Later, as local midnight approaches, multiple arcs may form with auroral curtains and cascades of light that can fill the sky.

Whilst the images portrayed in magazines or on television show intense colours, those colours aren’t usually apparent to the eye. In low light the human eye is very poor at sensing colour and aurora are normally perceived as a pearly grey with hints of green or red during more intense phases.    What photographs fail to show is the wonderful fluid movement of the Northern Lights.

If you travel to experience the Northern Lights you should do so in the company of an expert who can prepare you for what to expect and explain what you are seeing. Astronomy Holidays specialist Explorers run regular tours in Sweden and Iceland. Their Iceland Northern Lights tour has enjoyed enviable success with every tour group for the past three winter seasons seeing the Northern Lights.

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