Iceland (Part 6) Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis

Published November 15, 2012 by theblondebackpacker

About the Northern Lights

*they’re caused by electrically-charged solar particles colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere

*their most common color is green, but depending on the type of molecules the solar particles collide with in the Earth’s atmosphere, the lights can also be pink, red, or violet

*your odds of seeing the lights increase during dark, moonless nights with cloudless skies

*in addition to Iceland, other popular spots for viewing the lights are northern Norway, the Swedish Lapland, northern Alaska, and northwestern Canada

*the lights are mysterious and can never be perfectly predicted- basically, they like to play hard-to-get

I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights, so I was willing the universe to allow them to appear during my trip, even though I knew the conditions weren’t favorable. The solar activity predictions were low, plus I was there during the week leading up to the full moon. Darkness is needed for the lights to be visible, so generally speaking- the brighter the moon, the worse the viewing. Still, I kept hoping…

By the time I was on a bus, however, headed back to the airport, I had completely given up. I wasn’t even thinking about the lights anymore. It was 5AM- I was tired, moody, and worried about my cat. (There was no particular reason to be worried, as he was back in Virginia, being well-cared for by his grandma. However, despite looking and acting younger, he is 19-years-old, and I always worry about leaving him)

I was starting to zone out when I heard the bus driver say, very nonchalantly, “oh, the lights are dancing.” I thought it was a joke, but I still jerked my head up to check, and BAM-there they were, the northern lights! The emerald streaks moved slowly across the sky, twisting and intertwining, like glow-in-the-dark ivy climbing a black wall. It was a small show, but it was still one of the most striking things I’ve ever seen. In some parts of the world, the natives believed the lights were the spirits of those who had passed on. Modern scientists believe it’s charged solar particles hitting the Earth’s atmosphere, but after seeing them, I have to wonder if there isn’t something to both theories. There’s a reason the lights are considered alluring and eerie- they really do feel alive. At any rate, isn’t that a nice thought? That when we die, our souls could still visit the Earth and give everyone a beautiful show as a colorful collision of particles? When we’re dead, we should definitely try it.

That morning reminded me of the best thing about traveling-that there’s always a good chance something interesting will happen. Even if you aren’t expecting it or looking for it, even if you’re not in a good mood…there’s just always that potential…

If you would like to take a look at the expected Aurora forecast, check out the link below from the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute

http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/Europe/2012/11/15

Anyways, that was the perfect ending to my trip to Iceland. A couple hours later, Liz and I were back on Iceland Air, this time heading towards London…

3 comments on “Iceland (Part 6) Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis

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