When it comes to natural phenomena, not much can rival the level of fascination caused by the elusive Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Last year, when news broke that the lights will dim for a decade after 2016, tourists flocked to Scandinavian countries such as Iceland or Norway in droves, hoping to catch a final glimpse of the alluring aurora. It is worth noting that even though this means the lights will occur less frequently, they will not be completely gone — so all hope is not lost.
The unique celestial display occurs due to the collision between charged particles emitted from the sun during a solar flare and atoms and molecules in the atmosphere. This results in bursts of light, called photons, which then make up the aurora. Collisions with oxygen produce red and green auroras, while those with nitrogen result in pink and purple ones. This reaction surrounds the polar regions of the earth, occurring at an altitude of 65 kilometres to 650 kilometres in a zone called the “Aurora Oval”.
While Iceland and Norway are well-known spots where one can catch the dazzling display in the night sky, you can view it from other parts of the world, too — as the phenomenon occurs near the magnetic poles. It takes place as far south as New Orleans in the Western hemisphere. In fact, we know a few lucky friends who were treated to the magical displays from their plane window.
Described as mirror-like images that occur at the same time, the Northern Lights and Southern Lights (Aurora Australis, which occurs in the South) can be seen in some rather unexpected places around the world. As with many natural phenomena, the lights are unpredictable and it’s hard to confirm the best time to see them. Your best bet? September to March, when the lights occur more frequently. Additionally, you can download astronomy guide apps such as Star Walk and check out sites such as Aurora Forecast.
If you find yourself booking a flight to Iceland, stop. From Australia to Michigan, here are 5 other places outside of Scandinavia that offer equally glorious views of Mother Nature’s light show.