Remember the factors: darkness, a week-long stay, good clear weather, picking your location and planning your itinerary. With all these taken into account, hopefully you will look up and be dazzled by the beautiful dancing lights. And if they don’t show themselves, you will still have had a great adventure in Iceland!
Leaving Monday for Iceland and Oslo, Norway to see Aurora Borealis.
Auroras are produced when the magnetosphere is sufficiently disturbed by the solar wind that the trajectories of charged particles in both solar wind and magnetospheric plasma, mainly in the form of electrons and protons, precipitate them into the upper atmosphere (thermosphere/exosphere) due to Earth’s magnetic field, where their energy is lost.
The resulting ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents emits light of varying color and complexity. The form of the aurora, occurring within bands around both polar regions, is also dependent on the amount of acceleration imparted to the precipitating particles. Precipitating protons generally produce optical emissions as incident hydrogen atoms after gaining electrons from the atmosphere. Proton auroras are usually observed at lower latitudes.
So, besides learning to spell Reyjavik, I’ve learned that there are two Auroras, the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Arora Australis (Southern Lights).
Auroras are created by atoms colliding and releasing photons as they interact with the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth. A wonderful blend of both astrophysics and elemental physics:
The northern lights are caused by collisions between fast-moving particles (electrons) from space and the oxygen and nitrogen gas in our atmosphere. These electrons originate in the magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field. As they rain into the atmosphere, the electrons impart energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules, making them excited. When the molecules return to their normal state, they release photons, small bursts of energy in the form of light.
Some other facts in case you are appearing on Jeopardy!:
- Seneca wrote about auroras in the first book of his Naturales Quaestiones,
- Benjamin Franklin hypothesized the explanation for the phenomenon in his paper, Aurora Borealis, Suppositions and Conjectures towards forming an Hypothesis for its Explanation
- During the Battle of Fredericksburg, an aurora was seen from the battlefield.
Forecast says rain and snow, so we will see.
For convenience, I plan to use Reykjavik Sailors:
I figure the added possibility of mobility will increase the odds. There are plenty of opportunities to see them in Norway, so I’ll give it a shot there.