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Journey into the Enigma: our article offers a deep dive into the celestial phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, a marvel that has captivated sky gazers for ages. We trace the Aurora's origins from the Sun's fiery core to Earth's protective magnetic shield, illuminating each step of this magnificent natural light show.
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Viktória Komjáti
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Published:
7 Dec 2023
Updated: 27 Dec 2023
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Through a blend of local wisdom and scientific analysis, we invite you to explore the Northern Lights in a way that transcends their beauty, revealing the profound scientific intrigue behind this spectacular dance of light.

Prepare to be enlightened by the story of the Aurora, a narrative that intertwines the artistry of nature with the precision of science.

Three people standing on a grassy hill silhouetted against a night sky illuminated by the green swirls of the Northern Lights.
Photo: Björgvin Hilmarsson

The Northern Lights, Polar Lights or Aurora Borealis as they're scientifically known, are a natural wonder that many dream of witnessing. For some, seeing the Aurora is a key reason for their Icelandic adventure.

However, experiencing this spectacle isn't always guaranteed. It requires a mix of planning, understanding of the phenomenon, plenty of patience, and yes, a touch of good fortune.

That's where we step in: Our Northern Lights tours are crafted from the wisdom of generations of locals, enriched with detailed research, statistical analysis, and insights into current weather and atmospheric conditions, along with space weather forecasts. Thus, choosing our tour is the most effective way to enhance your chances of success with minimal effort.





A vibrant image of the Sun showcasing dynamic solar activity, with bright flares and prominences extending from the surface, set against the dark backdrop of space.

But how is this incredible phenomenon is created?

The magic begins with the Sun itself. The star of our solar system plays a key role in crafting the Aurora. Our Sun is not just a ball of light and warmth, but a bubbling cauldron of hot matter, energy and activity. It’s mostly composed of hydrogen and helium, with a touch of heavier elements. It’s like a pot of golden soup, always in a gentle boil, with ingredients constantly mingling and churning.

On the surface of the Sun, temperatures rise to about 5,500 degrees Celsius or nearly 10 000 Fahrenheit. Deeper into its core, temperatures reach a staggering several million degrees.

The pressure at the Sun's core is so immense that hydrogen atoms fuse together to form helium. This nuclear fusion releases vast amounts of energy that constantly radiates outward, moving towards the Sun's surface. As it does, it stirs currents within the Sun's material, electrically charging the gasses. This causes electric fields to rise throughout the star.

In certain regions, strings of magnetic fields surge upwards, piercing the surface. As they ascend, they carry with them hot matter, which starts cooling at the surface and forms darker patches known as sunspots. The appearance of these sunspots can be an indicator of an imminent solar storm and as a favorable Northern Lights forecast.

The electrically charged plasma drags the magnetic fields further out, causing it to stretch and twist, much like a rubber band being pulled taut. Eventually, the tension becomes too great, and the magnetic field snaps.

When this rupture occurs, colossal amounts of plasma, weighing billions of tons, are propelled into space, creating what we call a Coronal Mass Ejection, which is a type of 'solar storm'. This mass of plasma can travel through space at astonishing speeds, exceeding 8 million kilometers or 5 million miles an hour. Within a mere 18 hours, it approaches Earth.

If Earth didn't have its magnetic fields, the consequences of such a storm could be catastrophic. However, our planet is equipped with a protective shield, a magnetic umbrella that deflects the majority of these solar particles.

When the storm approaches Earth, our magnetic fields begin a complex dance of interactions. These magnetic fields move, stretch and occasionally break under the storm, channeling some lost particles from the solar storm towards Earth’s magnetic poles. But rest assured, there's no cause for alarm. This influx of particles poses no danger to us. Our magnetic fields serve as a robust shield, deflecting the bigger danger..

At last, we come to the actual formation of the ethereal lights: as the Sun's particles enter Earth's atmosphere, they collide and interact with gas atoms. This interaction causes the emission of energy and light, resulting in what we perceive as the spectacular multi-colored light show in the night sky.

The process is similar to how neon lights glow: When atoms and molecules are energized by electrons, they release this extra energy in the form of light to return to their normal state.

Below is a video from Nasa that beautifully illustrates this process:

By playing the video you accept Youtube’s use of cookies. More info.

For those yearning to witness this natural marvel and understand the celestial mechanics behind it, our tours offer not just a chance to see the Northern Lights but also to learn from knowledgeable guides who bring the phenomenon to life with engaging insights. Join us, and be enlightened by the grandeur of the cosmos on a journey that promises to be as informative as it is beautiful.

Select Your Aurora Tour






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          The Golden Circle & Northern Lights - Combo Deal

          Want to see the sites of the Golden Circle and hunt for the northern lights but have a limited amount of time? Consider this express Golden Circle/Northern Lights tour! Experience the landmarks of the classic Golden Circle in South Iceland on this unforgettable day tour. The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Thingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. After your return to Reykjavík, a guide will lead you on a search for the elusive northern lights!

          From €111/person

          Questions and Answers about Northern Lights Tours in Iceland

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