Scientists at Nasa have predicted that the beginning of 2013 will represent the peak in
the current Solar Maximum and that this will lead to the most intense northern
lights in 50 years. Astronomers have known for decades that the Sun's activity
rises and falls in a cycle that lasts 11 years on average. At its most active,
called solar maximum, dark sunspots dot the Sun's surface and frequent
eruptions send billions of tons of hot plasma into space.
The connection between the Northern Lights and sunspot activity has been suspected
since about 1880. Thanks to research conducted in the last 50 years, we now
know that electrons and protons from the sun are blown towards the earth on the
'solar wind'. The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between
gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles released
from the sun's atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas
particles that are colliding. The most common northern lights colour, a pale
yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above
the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at
heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.
So how do you get to see them?
Head to the Arctic circle in short where proximity to the magnetic pole ensures that
the best sightings are to be seen. Northern Parts of Lapland not only offer
wonderful opportunities for seeing the northern lights but also enable the
visitor to experience anything from snowmobiling to driving a husky sled dog
As the long winter starts in Swedish Lapland there have already been some
fantastic northern lights sightings in Abisko National Park, widely regarded as
one of the best places on earth for consistent sightings of the northern
Northern lights holidays are selling out fast for this winter so aurora watchers are
encouraged to get booking early or risk the chance of missing out on what
should be the best season in 50 years!