Are the Northern Lights going to disappear?



The Northern Lights have been the subject of many myths over the years but could the latest be true?

According to many recent reports, 'nature's most spectacular light show' may soon vanish from our skies.

SEE ALSO: Is this the best ever picture of the Northern Lights?

SEE ALSO: Northern Lights dazzle Finland stargazers


Why? It's all to do with the period of solar minimum, the declining stage of Solar Cycle 24. Some recent reports have claimed that this will make the Northern Lights invisible.

Is it true? Well, yes and no....

Here's the science bit
The Aurora is caused by gaseous, particle-ejections from the sun, hitting the earth's magnetic shield and being attracted to the magnetic poles (north and south) where they collide with atoms which produces the lights we see in the sky. Spots on the surface of the sun are known to produce these eruptions, so the cycle of solar maximum (when there are more sunspots) and solar minimum (when there are fewer) generally correspond to more or fewer sightings.




But, importantly, gas ejections continue to be emitted from the sun through 'coronal holes,' which are ironically far more stable during the solar minimum and release a more constant stream of particles that hit the earth no matter where in its span the solar cycle is, so the Northern Lights continue.

To help dispel the myth of a disappearing Aurora, a variety of experts gave Northern Lights holiday specialist company The Aurora Zone their views, which unanimously stated that the solar winds would continue and consequently so would the Northern Lights (although they may well be more difficult to find without some expert guidance).

Leila Mays, a space physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said: "Geomagnetic storms caused by high-speed solar wind streams aren't uncommon. Near solar minimum, when solar activity like coronal mass ejections are less frequent, these fast streams are actually the most common cause of geomagnetic storms that create auroras."

The Aurora Zone's managing director, Ali McLean, who became hooked on the Lights in 2008, said that at the bottom of the last solar minimum, he witnessed "something truly, truly spectacular" and "the best Aurora I have ever seen...and I've been very fortunate to have seen quite a few."

McLean adds that the secret to seeing the Northern Lights this winter is to hunt for them in remote spots which are far removed from significant light pollution.

"The other imperative is local knowledge," he says. "Nobody knows the Aurora better than the folk who live with them night after night."

This autumn has already seen frequent and astonishing displays so far, including some spectacular scenes in Finnish Lapland.

Three more myths about the Northern Lights:

1. A baby conceived beneath the Northern Lights will be lucky, clever and beautiful: there is no proof of this Japanese myth but an upsurge in Japanese tourists within the Auroral Oval at the peak of solar activity recently might show that they may know something we don't.

2. Giving birth under the Lights will ease the pain: an Icelandic story that is untrue - but there is certainly plenty of calming magic in the Aurora, so perhaps easing the pain of childbirth is another of her many talents.

3. Never whistle at the Lights: a Scandinavian myth that you would be snatched by the spirits if you whistled at the Aurora that was proved to be incorrect by the fact that North American Indians regularly did this with no reported losses.

10 PHOTOS
Incredible ways to see the Northern Lights
See Gallery
Incredible ways to see the Northern Lights

Witness the spectacular phenomenon while on a flight for unique viewing. Fly via Helsinki with Finnair and you could encounter the Northern Lights as your flight comes within the aurora range. Tromso in Norway is almost always directly beneath the hottest streak of aurora activity and a great place to start. Pilots advise passengers which side of the aircraft to look out of so that no-one misses the incredible light show from the sky. Flights to Lapland are a popular route to take in the hope of catching a glimpse of the famous spectacle and even flights across Asia to Japan and China stand a good chance of seeing the lights. Finnair flies from London Heathrow to Helsinki five times a day, from £165 return.

For a unique way to experience the Northern Lights, travellers to Finnish Lapland can hole up in a mobile camp on Lake Inari. You'll spend two nights at the Hotel Kultahovi before sleeping in a mobile cabin for one night. The cabin is towed onto a secluded spot on the lake, complete with a personal sauna and hot tub. With large windows on the front, sides and roof, it's an ideal base for spotting the Northern Lights, while a cosy double bed, heating and on-board facilities ensure a peaceful and restful night. Best Served Scandinavia offers the four-day holiday from £855 ​per person, including flights, which are available from ​December 2017 to April 2018.​

Rail lovers can celebrate the New Year and Rozhdestvo (Russian Christmas) in style, venturing deep into the Russian and Norwegian Arctic Circle in pursuit of the magnificent Aurora Borealis from the comfort of the luxurious Golden Eagle train. A guest astronomer joins the tour to bring the night sky to life with his extensive knowledge and once deep in the Arctic Circle, you'll leave the train behind at Nikel and travel across the Russian/Norwegian border to Kirkenes, spending two nights at the Snow Hotel before you rejoin the Golden Eagle to travel to Murmansk, Petrozavodsk, Vladimir and Suzdal en route to Moscow, a fitting finale to this once-in-a-lifetime quest for the Northern Lights. Golden Eagle Luxury Trains offers the Arctic Explorer – Quest for the Northern Lights holiday departing 29 December 2017 from £9,695 per person on an all-inclusive basis.

Sledding is one of the coolest things you can do in the Arctic but it gets super chilly at night. The Aurora Zone's heated Aurora sleighs allow you to spend the night hunting the Northern Lights while staying warm. Available in the tiny and remote village of Nellim, Finnish Lapland, the sleighs are pulled by snowmobiles and feature heating, cosy seating and transparent walls with plenty of room to transport you through the Arctic wilderness in comfort. A Nellim - Wilderness Weekend costs from £1,085 per person, including flights and three nights' full-board accommodation.

Snowmobiling is one of the most exciting ways to search for the Northern Lights and Lake Inari in Finland is the ideal spot to get out and enjoy the spectacular displays. The Aurora Zone's Nangu Tailormade trip takes you Aurora snowmobiling at night across the stunningly still lake. Led by an experienced local guide, you will travel to a prime Northern Lights spotting location in the real Arctic wilderness. Accommodation is at Hotel Nangu, an adult-only boutique hotel made up of a series of elegant wooden lodges. The three-night break with The Aurora Zone costs from £1,295 per person and includes flights and full-board accommodation.
Take a dip in a frozen lake while wearing a warm, head-to-toe rescue suit. You'll lie comfortably in Arctic waters while looking up to the night sky above Rovaniemi, Finland, to search for the Northern Lights. This three-hour long experience starts at 7.30pm when the last hints of daylight have left the Arctic sky – perfectly timed to experience the polar night. The Aurora Floating experience from Off the Map Travel is included in a three-night itinerary which costs from £1,289 per person based on a half-board basis with a stay at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel.

Sip cocktails as you await the Aurora Borealis at Ion Hotel's Northern Lights Bar in Iceland. The glass-walled drinking spot offers panoramic views over Lake Thingvallavatn, as well as beer from Iceland's independent micro-breweries and Icelandic folk tunes. Perched on stilts at the foot of Mount Hengill, the hotel is just an hour's drive from Reykjavik but feels a world away, providing a unique spot for remote Northern Lights viewing. Standard rooms are available from £207 per night.

 

The new Apukka Resort in Finnish Lapland offers superb Northern Lights viewing opportunities with a range of unique and unusual accommodation options, including the unusual heated Aurora Wagons. These wagons can be transported to unique and beautiful spots in the wilderness, from snow-laden hilltops to frozen lakes, and feature a comfy bed and a small kitchenette, while the glass roof panels look up to the inky black of the Arctic night and, hopefully, a private view of nature’s greatest light show. Trips depart at 8:30pm and last for 12 hours. A four-day tailor-made break with Best Served Scandinavia starts from £1,195 per person, including flights, two nights in an Aurora Cabin and an overnight Aurora Wagon experience.

Reminiscent of something from a science-fiction movie, The Aurora Zone's exclusive Aurora Bubbles are heated pods in the grounds of the Nellim Wilderness Hotel in Finland. The Bubbles feature a large north-facing dome window, double beds and a toilet area, and are ideal for scanning the night sky for a Northern Lights display. They are located in an area of minimal light pollution to enhance your chances of witnessing the Aurora, but within walking distance from the main building and give guests a genuine wilderness experience. A three-night Nellim - Wilderness Weekend costs from £1,085 per person, including flights.

Join a trained chef and mountain guide in the Arctic wilderness where a four-course banquet will be prepared, using local ingredients and cooked over an open fire in the middle of the Arctic wilderness. Dinner will be served in a locally built igloo and as well as learning about the ingredients and how important they are for local cookery, your guide will tell you about the local connection with the Northern Lights as you, hopefully, witness the Lights dancing overhead. The Taste of the Arctic experience from Off the Map Travel is included in a three-night Northern Lights itinerary, which costs from £1,499 per person.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE



Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS