In order to catch a glimpse
of the famed and mysterious aurora borealis (AKA the Northern Lights), a few
conditions have to be met. You have to have a very dark night, very clear
skies, and be far enough north that you fall into what's called the Auroral
But it's an experience that
is also very much worth it. As long as you can gather your layers and deal with
more darkness than daylight, here are four places that offer up some of the
best aurora viewing in the world during the winter months:
Located in the middle of the
Atlantic Ocean under the lower curve of the Auroral Oval, the entire country of
Iceland is positioned perfectly for optimal Northern Lights viewing. Beginning
in September and stretching into March and sometimes even April, the skies are
dark enough over most of Iceland (and the light pollution is minimal enough)
that seeing the aurora is possible.
Located on the Hudson Bay in
northern Manitoba, Canada, the tiny town of Churchill is most well known to
outsiders for its polar bears. During October and November, the bears migrate
south through Churchill in order to head out onto the newly formed ice in the
Bay to hunt. But Churchill, with its location directly under the Auroral Oval
and its minimal light pollution, is also one of the top places in the world to
watch the dancing Northern Lights. It was from an outpost here in the 1950s
that researchers began sending rockets up into the atmosphere to study the
science behind the aurora.
In the United States, it
takes a strong solar storm to charge up the particles in the atmosphere enough
to make the aurora glow anywhere near the Lower 48. That isn’t to say that it
never happens–but it's rare. If you want to see the Northern Lights in the
U.S., therefore, you have to head north to Alaska. Fairbanks is often listed as
one of the best places in the world to see the aurora, and the Geophysical
Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks takes readings here to predict
aurora activity all over the northern hemisphere.
Last but certainly not least,
no Northern Lights list would be complete without mention of Norway. When dark,
clear skies are what you're looking for, head to Tromsø in northern Norway
for some incredible viewing possibilities. Located above the Arctic Circle (but
still within the Auroral Oval), Tromsø is no stranger to dark, clear nights –
and some of the best Northern Lights in the world.
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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