Download the Astro Trails 2013/14 brochure.
Flight exclusive price for the Northern Lights trip to Tromsø is £350
Flight exclusive price for the Lapland and Tromso Aurora trip is £795
As the solar cycle moves up from the prolonged period of minimum activity and the northern skies again light up with spectacular shows of the aurora, those of us in southern latitudes need to move north if we are to enjoy the display. Fortunately we don’t need to head for the North Pole, but you do need to be within sight of the Auroral Oval, a doughnut shaped area around the magnetic pole where all the activity can be seen.
Occasionally the oval will expand and cover parts of Scotland or Northern England, but that is fairly rare. Your next best location is Iceland or North Norway, both are well placed to observe all the spectacular events and you only need be away for a few days. Apart from location, the other main point to consider is weather. If the sky is cloudy, you won’t see the aurora even if there is a big display and both Iceland and Norway have a fair amount of cloud. In both places however the weather is influenced by a volatile mix of warm Gulf Stream air and cold Artic air so it can change suddenly and frequently, with dense cloud clearing to give a brilliant clear view of the sky. You may get lucky right away but probably you will need to be patient and persist a little. The experience of the aurora in full colour will be well worth the effort.
What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights, the sky’s own light show, have always been the object of great wonder to mankind. Legend has it; the Northern Lights have been seen as everything from evil spirits to celestial wars with their marching armies. These beautiful displays have, over time, given rise to a wealth of works of art, myths, legends and stories.
The Northern Lights are caused by charged gas particles that flow away from the Sun as a "solar wind" and interact with the Earth's magnetic field. The charged particles "excite" gases in our atmosphere and make make them glow, just like gas in a fluorescent tube. The colours depend on the type of gas, a red or green glow is oxygen and the blue and purple colours are produced by nitrogen. The solar wind reacts with the earth’s magnetic field in a doughnut shaped area around the North Pole (the auroral oval) and you need to be within sight of this area to see the lights.
The appearance of the aurora is closely connected to activity on the sun. This activity usually changes over a cycle of around eleven years and after a quiet period of several years (a solar minimum) the sun has now become active again. This activity is expected to increase for the next two to three years, before again declining.
Also known as the Aurora Borealis, which means ‘dawn of the north’, the Aurora can appear abruptly, filling the sky at incredible speed with great arcs, as ghostly wisps in green, yellow, red and violet dance above the horizon, before disappearing again.
The Inuit of Greenland believed the lights came from the realm of the dead, caused by the spirits trying to contact their living relatives, and Norwegian sailors believe the displays were the souls of young maiden’s waving and dancing in the night’s sky. The Danes believed the Northern Lights to be swans that had strayed too far north and got stuck in the ice. As they struggled to break free, each stroke of their wings was reflected in the sky, forming the Northern Lights. Whatever explanation to this natural phenomenon, everyone who has seen the Northern Lights have been caught in awe by this magical display, a celestial show which truly needs to be seen to be believed.
View the Northern Lights trip to Tromsø
View the Lapland and Tromso Aurora trip