I just came back from seeing the Northern Lights and you must see them, too. The Northern Lights are also known as Aurora Borealis. Let me tell what it is because you might be like me. I had heard of them, but had not clue what they were so spectacular. It occurs when the sun releases electrically charged particles and they collide with oxygen and nitrogen. This collision causes a light show around the northern hemisphere’s magnetic poles. This is a phenomenon that occurs naturally but unpredictably. Usually you will only have about two hours notice before it will appear. All of that is a lot of fancy talk to say it looks like a sunset at night. 

Seeing the lights depends heavily on the activity of the sun. Unfortunately, no one can predict when sunspots are going to occur. The only way I saw them is I just got lucky. I just happened to be up in North West Canada at the right time. In general, there is a cycle of 11 years for sunspot activity. During this period the sun goes through Solar Maximum and Solar Minimum. Solar Maximum means there is more sun activity and Solar Minimum means there is less. The more the sun moves that means the more chance there is for an aurora. Your chances of seeing the lights are higher during the maximum stage of solar activity. If you ever think you have the chance to see it, take it. This is something you do not want to miss. But, you have to plan your trip really well or just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

What Does The Northern Lights Look Like?

It was night time when I saw the lights. Well, technically it was really early in the morning, but since I hadn’t been to sleep, it was still night to me. It was also dead in the middle of winter, because it needs to be cold. I am sure you have heard the old adage, the best things come to those who wait. From what my friends tell me, this is also true of the Aurora Borealis. If you truly want to see them, you must be patient. 

So, I have to tell you I looked at pictures of the Northern Lights and they look nothing like they do in pictures. Don’t get me wrong, it is still an amazing sight just not the same. When I saw them, the Northern Lights appear cloud like and milky white in color. There was some hint of pink or red but it does not appear in dazzling color. The pictures you see of the lights are not trying to deceive you.

It was your eyes that toyed with my emotions. Your will, too. The cells of the eye that detect light at night does not do a great job of detecting colors. As a result, most of the times, auroras are seen in shades of gray with the naked eye. The light do often appear as arcs and spirals. Even knowing that, it is something you want to see before you die.

Where Can I See The Northern Lights?

The best places to see the Northern Lights are in North America, Europe and north west Canada. You can also plan to visit Sweden of Finland to see the Northern Lights there. Most likely, you are going to have to look for it in the winter because that is the best set up to see the lights. The skies are clearer and darker for longer. 

When you are serious about seeing the Northern Lights, should be aware of space weather. These are items happening outside the atmosphere and are in direct relation to the activity of the sun. There are many websites that give updates on these types of alerts. Who knew? You should put it on your bucket list and decide for yourself. If you do not have a bucket list, create one.