Scientifically speaking, the Aurora (affixed with Borealis if happening in the north and with Australis if happening in the south) is a magical and colourful light show displayed by the Earth’s atmosphere when its magnetic fields trap charged particles from the sun.
It happens in cold and high altitude places in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres during equinoxes when day and night are of equal length. Millennial talk posts it as an opportunity to travel, go on a road (and air) trip adventure, and experience a once in a lifetime enchantment.
As magical and enchanting as it is, witnessing the Northern or Southern Lights needs planning and strategising. Location and timing is of the essence. Here are some tips on how you can catch the sky’s emerald green to scarlet red light show yourself.
1. Choose a country in the Arctic or Antarctic regions.
The polar regions are where the celestial magic happens. The sky is usually dark in those areas. Pollution is light to low, and freezing temperature is expected.
You can expect the Aurora Borealis in the Arctic skies of Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska, Norway, northern parts of Finland and Sweden, Iceland, and Greenland. On the other end, Australia and New Zealand are your go-to countries to see the Aurora Australis.
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2. Timing is of the essence.
In most countries, the best time to see the northern lights would be between September and March. However, the occurrence still differs from one country to another.
Aurora Australis in the southern tip of Australia can happen year round especially during equinoxes. The same goes in the southern region of New Zealand.
Aurora Borealis in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and Canada usually happens from August to April, with a possible extension to May in the last country mentioned. Norway, Sweden, and Finland skies display the wonderful spectacle from September to March.
Fall equinox and winter solstice mark the best timings. You can also try researching for dark and moonless nights as these are when the Aurora has the highest possibility of occurring.
3. You can choose to go on a guided trek.
Guided treks are available for those who wish to lessen the challenge. European countries like Norway and Scandinavia offer tours to Aurora viewing spots in the mountains, in the countryside, along the coast, or from a hotel by bus, car, or ferry.
4. Or, you can go on a DIY Aurora Lights hunt trip.
If you prefer to go on a self-drive tour, ready yourself to plow snowy roads. Yes, you will need a car or a jeep and driving confidence. You are also going to need a map and a compass. Think, going into the woods, only you are not just going to camp out. Remember to take precautions.
You also have to be on weather watch. You can check these forecast service websites for regular updates on the Aurora Borealis and Australis:
- Aurora Forecast for Scandinavia and Northern Europe
- Northern Lights Forecast – Aurora Service (North America)
- Norway Lights (Northern Lights) Aurora Forecast
- Icelandic Met Office
- University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute
If you want a handy mobile app in your smartphone or tablet, you can use Aurora Alerts. Take note that this app is only available in iOS.
The top location picks for DIY Aurora hunting tour include Tasmania in Australia, Reykjavik in Iceland, Tromso in Norway, Yellowknife in Canada, and Fairbanks in Alaska. You might want to prioritize one of these regions in your first trip as tips on what to prepare for and expect have already been posted online by previous Aurora sky gazers.
5. Do not forget your winter essentials.
Thermals are important. The weather along the remote edges where the magic of Aurora happens is always freezing (i.e. zero degrees or below). Winter sports style clothing and footwear are needed, too, as you are likely to trek snowy land. Shop for your winter trekking equipment and other winter needs at affordable prices at Lazada, Taobao, and eBay.
6. Ready your camera to capture the rare phenomenon.
Of course, you need to capture the enchanting memory. You can even share your images and experience online to help out others who wish to witness the magical glow and streaks of the Aurora.
Did we get you pumped up to add the Aurora experience to your bucket list? We do hope so. Go ahead. Tag your friends along and tick trip to the edge of the world and capturing the colorful sky spectacle off your bucket list.