Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland

In September the green glow known as the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, begins its dance across the lava fields of  Keflavík. It is caused by the electrically charged particles emitted by the sun and interacting with the Earth's magnetic field. The colliding particles cause the thin air to glow in the beautiful colors of the aurora. The lights are expected to burn even more brightly in 2011 than usual, as they approach a peak in the 11-year solar-flare cycle.

Since Iceland is in the middle of the auroral zone where this phenomenon is most frequently seen, Tim was lucky enough to have several clear, crisp nights to observe one of the most spectacular shows on this earth. One particular night the aurora was so active, the lights kept Tim awake as they danced right outside his window.

The Northern Lights can prove to be quite elusive; conditions for viewing need to be just right. September through March are the best months to view the aurora. Contrary to popular belief, it does not have to be cold to see the aurora, just dark and clear...and clear skies usually mean it’s cold, hence the association between auroras and chilly nights. The peak viewing hours are between 11pm and 2am. So bundle up and head outside the city for the best viewing!