The first day in Iceland saw an evening trip into the cold night air on a warm coach full of people expectant on natures free light show, The Northern Lights.
The scientific name for the Northern Lights is “Aurora Borealis”, or aurora for short. The same phenomenon can also be seen in the Southern Hemisphere but known as the Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis.
The Sun is one gigantic nuclear explosion, which emits clouds of plasma. These clouds race through space and some towards earth. As these plasma particles start to enter our shield of defense the atmosphere, they collide with gases which create photons or light particles.
Rich Lacey www.northern-lights.no
These light particles form ribbons of light which dance along the magnetic force lines around the poles at a hight of between 80 to 200 kilometres above sea level.
Different colours can be observed, according to time of the year, the activity of the sun, and the composition of the nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere.
Our bus took us to the site of the worlds first parliament formed in 930 by the Vikings. We were told that this is where the American Tectonic plate and the Eurasian Tectonic plate meet, and we were warned of many fissures around making it a dangerous place. As we got of the bus I edged my way in virtual total darkness, hoping I would not fall down a gap in the earth’s crust.
Venus shone brightly off our left shoulder, the North Star was up above us, as other stars twinkled, but no Northern Lights. We were told that the show does not happen every night.
Then, a white mist like cloud started to appear above us, and within minutes an arc of ribboned light, lit up the night. It could be likened to watching a rain storm in the far distance, etched against a dark sky , but this was far more visual and brighter.
I remember as a young boy in the Midlands of the UK, standing in the field at the back of my parents house looking north and seeing the sky dance with colours. Yes the Northern Lights have been seen as far south as Singapore.
Tonight we only saw white light. It was freezing, and one by one people sought the warmth of the bus. Nature must have known we had had enough, because the show was over, and we set off back home.
Ever eager not to miss this wonder of nature, we gazed out of the bus windows, and suddenly, nature gave us an encore.
We stopped and again wrapped-up against the intense cold, we stood in awe as right above our heads, the Aurora Borealis gave us a dancing display, it was as if I could have reached up and touched the light.
Like any encore it was short. We departed to get warm, and for me a hot chocolate.