Putting the emotions experienced while observing the aurora borealis in words should be considered a travesty. The hauntingly beautiful vibrant display of neon illuminations that coat the dark sky create an inviting canvas that tends to evoke sheer silence from those witnessing the spectacle.
The northern lights are one of the few natural phenomena on the planet that should be mandatory to witness. And for those planning on taking a Norwegian cruise this winter, you may have picked the best time to in recent memory to spend a vacation gazing up at this mesmerizing array of wonder while you set sail around the Arctic Circle. NASA is currently predicting that this winter will be a strong season in terms of viewing the solar activity, so for first timers encountering the northern lights, here's what you need to know about the enchanting aurora borealis.
How they form
The northern lights are essentially the ultimate science experiment. The ribbons lights that vibrate through the sky like twirling tango partners are actually the result of colliding electrically charged particles emitted from the sun that are entering the Earth's atmosphere. The different colors reported range in shade from red, yellow, green, blue to violet, and the cause for the change in hues is due to the different gas properties and particles interacting with each other.
The most common color witnessed during a northern lights show is a pale yellowish-green, which stems from oxygen molecules trapped around 60 miles above the planet. When nitrogen gets added into the mix, you will start seeing a more blue or purple-ish aurora. The rarest type of color to see is an all red aurora, which is produced through high-altitude oxygen contained around 200 miles above the Earth.
Best time to see them
Researchers have determined that the height of northern light activity happens in cycles of around 11 years. Last year was considered a peak year in terms of aurora intensity; however, NASA is still predicting that this winter will also be an excellent time to see strong solar wind activity and dazzling displays of the northern lights. The best time of the day is essentially midnight in whatever local time zone you are in.
Best places to catch the action
The closer you are to the Earth's magnetic poles, the better the quality of auroras you will see. Tromsø is situated right in the middle of the Magnetic North Pole, providing a wonderful opportunity to see the illuminating show like you've never seen it before. Taking a northern lights cruise from Bergen to Tromsø will offer guests six nights of getting acquainted with this unforgettable experience, as well as getting a chance to stop through charming local cities, admire the frozen terrain of the Arctic Circle and marvel at the Seven Sisters mountains during your once in a lifetime voyage. You won't regret taking a trip with Hurtigruten to observe the northern lights and change your perception of the world forever.