Hunting for the Northern Lights

Hunting for the Northern Lights

Hunting for the Northern Lights

Northern lights as seen from Scotland


The Northern Lights are a natural wonder that thousands of people try to get a glimpse of. It’s possible to witness these lights in various parts of the world. If you don’t want to travel too far from home then Scotland is the place to head to.

 What are the Northern Lights?

The proper name for the Northern Lights is ‘Aurora Borealis’, but they are also commonly called ‘Merry Dancers’.

They consist of bright coloured streaks that appear to dance along the night sky. Exactly how long they last varies from a few minutes to just a few seconds. However, once you’ve witnessed them it’s a sight you’ll never forget.

The lights are created when the magnetic particles from Earth’s atmosphere collide with the Sun’s solar wind. The colour created is usually either green or red. In some cases the light actually intensifies and you get to see curtains or arcs of various different colours.

Sometimes the Aurora is quite weak and that leaves a faint light that’s barely detectable. It’s a gamble when you go hunting for the Northern Lights, but it’s one that definitely pays off if the Aurora is strong.

 Where to go

In Scotland the best places to head to in order to see these lights include the Orkney Isles and the Caithness Coast.

You can also head to the Outer Hebrides and Shetland for a glimpse of them. The latter have particularly low light pollution which makes the lights clearer and easier to spot when they do appear.

When to go

The Northern Lights can be seen in the autumn and winter months, with January being the best time to track them down. There’s even a text service available that alerts you to when the lights are more likely to appear. This means you can plan ahead as soon as you receive the alert.

The alert service is run by Aurora Watch UK and it provides a lot of useful advice. They even tell you how to build a detector that will tell you when the conditions are right for spotting the lights.

If you want to increase your chances of seeing the lights during peak times, you may need to stay up quite late. It’s not unusual for people to stay up until the early hours of the morning looking out for this natural phenomenon.

A few Northern Light facts

As well as amazing bright colours, the Northern Lights often give off an unusual sound. Those who have heard this sound say it sounds like a round of applause. The highest the lights have ever been is 620 miles away from Earth. However they can be as close as just 50 miles away.

For a little teaser for what to expect from the Northern Lights, why not look up a few pictures? While not as exciting as actually seeing them in person, you’ll still get a good idea of what to expect.

But if you want to witness this beautiful natural event first hand, the further north you go, the better hope you have of seeing them. Why not jump in one of our Rockinvans and park up in an ideal spot to see the lights at peak times?