Nature’s own theatrical performance, the Northern Lights have fascinated the public for generations.
And with autumn and winter well on their way, chances of spotting the lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are closer than ever.
Here, we detail out some of the best places to spot them – as well as some key tips and pieces of info on the natural wonder.
When to see the Northern Lights?
Staying up to the early hours of the morning can definitely help.
Autumn and winter seasons – with their long periods of darkness and clear nights – are the best time of the year to visit.
You also need to have limited light pollution to increase chances of spotting them.
Where to spot them in Scotland?
According to VisitScotland, the aurora can be seen anywhere in Scotland when the right conditions are met.
That being said, they’ve pulled together a list of the best places to see the marvel:
- Galashiels, Orkney and Caithness (eg. Noss Head, Wick)
- Aberdeenshire and the Moray Coast (eg. Nairn, Portknockie, Cairne o’ Mount)
- Lewis, Harris and the most northerly tip of Skye
- The far north west of Scotland (eg. Applecross, Lochinver, north of Ullapool)
- The Cairngorms
- Galloway Forest Park
- Rannoch Moor and Perthshire
- Angus and the coast of Fife (eg. St Andrews)
- Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh (if the aurora is really strong)
What causes the Northern Lights?
Named after Aurora (the Roman goddess of dawn) and Boreas (the Greek name for north wind), this Northern Lights are caused by charged particles accelerated into the Earth’s upper atmosphere along magnetic field lines.
The energy to drive this display is provided by the sun, in the form of a ‘solar wind’. The sun may be millions and millions of miles away, but it is the reason we see this extraordinary sight.
Aurorae come in all colours, shapes and patterns, setting the night sky alive with rainbows of light.
According to Visit Scotland, the variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding, from yellowish-greens, blues and purples, to fiery reds and oranges.
The playful streaks that snake across the night sky evolve and change constantly, and can last minutes or merely seconds.