What are the Northern Lights?
The aurora borealis, also known as the ‘northern lights’, is one of the most spectacular displays in the night sky.
Also known as the polar lights or aurora polaris, the northern lights are a natural light display in Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions. Auroras display dynamic patterns of brilliant lights that appear as curtains, rays, spirals, or dynamic flickers covering the entire sky.
Because of the dancing light show aurora displays, they are named ‘Mirrie Dancers’. There are many Scottish folklore stories about the ‘Mirrie Dancers’ but the lights we see in the night sky are actually caused by activity on the surface of the Sun.
Solar storms on our star’s surface give out huge clouds of electrically charged particles. These particles can travel millions of miles, and some may eventually collide with the Earth.
Photographers go to remarkable lengths to try and capture the beauty of these atmospheric events and why wouldn’t they, they create a spectacular, magical sight.
When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
The time of year is most important to the success of seeing the aurora. The best time to see the northern lights are during the autumn and winter seasons because of the long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights.
Nights need to be cold and the sky clear of clouds, with limited light pollution and increased solar activity. Areas with minimal light pollution are the best places to see the northern lights, coastal areas are generally good.
Where can the Northern Lights be seen?
Aurora can be seen near the poles of both the northern and southern hemisphere.
In the north the display is known as the aurora borealis; in the south it is called the aurora australis. In Scotland, the most northern and coastal areas are best.
- Aberdeenshire and the Moray Coast
The Moray Coast runs along the Moray Firth with over 500 miles of coastlines.
- The Cairngorms
A mountain range in the eastern Highlands of Scotland and Scotlands second national park.
- Galloway Forest Park
The only Dark Sky Park in Scotland.
- Angus and the coast of Fife
Some of the prettiest villages in Scotland with beautiful beaches and historic harbours.
- Carlton Hill or Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh (if the aurora is really strong)
Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcano which is the main peak of a group of hills in Scotland.
Staying up until the wee hours of the morning may also help.
Aurora Watch is a website and app by Lancaster University, providing up to date information about the likelihood of seeing the northern lights and where the best places are likely to be, you can even set notification to your smartphone.
You don’t need to travel to the North or South pole to see the ‘Mirrie Dancers’, Scotland is the perfect place to see these natural wonders. If you would like to know more or see how we can help with your visit to Scotland just contact us, we are here to help you make memories for a lifetime.