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Conditions 'just right' for northern lights: expert

Conditions 'just right' for northern lights: expert

Published: 08 Mar 2012 17:13 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Mar 2012 17:13 GMT+01:00

With a solar flare providing excellent Northern Lights viewing opportunities in Sweden on Thursday night, a researcher at Lund observatory explained the phenomenon and the five best ways to catch it.

“There have been disturbances on the sun which have led to an explosion of material. It’s called a coronal mass ejection, and particles travel at a few million kilometres an hour,” researcher David Hobbs told The Local.

While this actually happens fairly often, Hobbs explains that this incident is special because it is the biggest in five years and the particles are heading directly towards the Earth.

“When the particles get trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field, they move towards the North and South Pole, and on clear nights, the resulting views from the interaction of the energetic charged particles with atoms in the atmosphere can be fantastic".

According to Hobbs, the phenomenon, known as The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, will be on display on Thursday night and are expected to be much better than usual. They may even stick around for Friday, and Hobbs claims they could even be seen as far south as Lund.

However, the unfortunate timing of a full moon means observing conditions are expected to deteriorate.

Hobbs gave The Local five sure-fire tips to of how to make the most of the opportunity.

1. The darker the better

The first and most important thing is to get into a dark place. Forests are a great place to find total darkness.

2. Head to the hills

Due to the bright city lights, Hobbs explained that any viewing of the spectacle will be ruined if you’re stuck in the big smoke.

3. Avoid the clouds

Overcast nights are no good for Northern Lights viewing. Check local weather in advance for cloud forecasts.

4. Keep an eye on normal looking clouds

The first time Hobbs saw the Northern Lights, he claims it looked exactly like a jet-stream. However, as he kept watching, the faint and wispy clouds began to shimmer, and soon turned green.

5. Head north

The further north the better, according to Hobbs, and Kiruna is especially recommended. Inside the Arctic circle provides the most breathtaking experiences.

Any extra tips?

Don’t forget your camera!

For those of you unable to see the lights, why not enjoy the scene from the comfort of your own home. Click below to see The Local's sampler of videos taken around the country.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:23 March 9, 2012 by grantley
Didn't you notice that the guy said 'The unfortunate timing of a full moon means observing conditions are expected to deteriorate.'
10:18 March 10, 2012 by AFMR
Here in the UK many of us envy your opportunities to see the Northern Lights. I hope that you were able to see them this time in the south of Sweden as well as the north.
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