|During the winter months, the natural Phenomenon of the Northern Lights is something many people wish to see.
The celestial displays of greens, yellows and reds that dance in the sky have over time inspired artist and poets and created myths and legends.
There is no better way to experience the Northern Lights than by sailing through the sheltered coastal waters, on board a ship from the Hurtigruten fleet as the Northern Lights are set against a dark sky, free from artificial light. In the winter a range of itineraries are available that combine a trip on the Hurtigruten with activities such as dog sledging or staying in an ice hotel. On many of the trips, the ship travels above the Arctic Circle, where the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are even higher.
You can never know when the Northern Lights will appear and disappear but sailing above the Arctic Circle will give you a good chance to experience the magic colour show from light green to dark purple flickering in the Arctic Sky. Northern Norway is one of the best places in the world to watch the Aurora, as here there are more days with the Aurora than anywhere in the world.
What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights or aurora borealis are a natural light display in the sky caused by the collision of charged particles from the sun hitting the Earth’s atmosphere and affected by our planet’s magnetic field.
When the particles meet the Earth’s magnetic shield, they are led towards a circle around the magnetic North Pole, where they interact with the upper layers of the atmosphere.
The energy which is then released is the northern lights. All this happens about 100 kilometres above our heads.
What do the Northern Lights look like?
They come in all different forms and shapes. Each appearance of the Northern Lights is unique.
They usually start on the horizon in the form of a green band, which depending on winds and the strength of activity, begins to thicken and move across the sky.
Often you can see two or three green bands across the night sky. Or the lights come as flickering curtains or rolling smoke.
The colour is a luminous green, often with a hint of pink along the edge, and occasionally with a deep violet centre.
They will often appear in the form of “curtains”, which drape over each other and “fall” to the horizon.
If there is a lot of activity up there, the northern lights explode for a minute or two in a corona or swirl and bank and dip or dive above you or on the far horizon.
Where can you see the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights can be seen from the 60th parallel to the 72nd parallel on both north and south latitudes, where they are known as the aurora australis, or southern lights.
When is the best time of year to see the Northern Lights?
The lights are at their most frequent in late autumn/early spring (vice versa in the southern hemisphere) during the equinoxes (21 September – 21 March), between 6pm when it starts to get dark and 1am when it starts to get light in the sky.
The weather plays an important part and clear nights with no snow, little light pollution and a weak moon are the best.
One of the best places to see the lights is on a Hurtigruten ship as light pollution will be at a minimum and you can see the lights from horizon to horizon.
However, there are never any guarantees: some nights you can see an amazing display, repeated several times in an evening. On other nights – even on a clear evening – the lights may simply stay away.
Clearly, the more time you spend in the region, the better the odds of seeing the lights.
Video of the Northern Lights with Joanna Lumley
The actress from the BBC series Absolutely Fabulous, travels across Norway in search for the Aurora Borealis, also known as the northern lights.