Updated: Dec 14, 2019
In this second blog, I will discuss the elusive northern lights that we had the rare opportunity to observe and photograph. Once in a while, in winter nights if you are lucky you may see the dancing of green, purple color of varied shapes and intensity dancing in the sky. I am showing some of these pictures that we took in our trip. First let me explain about how they are formed. The northern lights (or the formal name Aurora Borealis over the North Pole) and Aurora Australis ( over the South Pole) are created by solar gas activity on the surface of the Sun which ejects clouds of charged particles from the Sun which is also called Solar wind. Solar winds travel at an average speed of 310-530 miles per sec and collide with the Earth's atmosphere. It takes 2 to 4 days to reach the earth. These charged particles, mostly protons and electrons collide with the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the upper atmosphere above the earth in the polar regions and display amazing dancing colors. The electromagnetic field around the earth which shields most of the earth is the weakest at the poles and that is where these charged particles from the sun sneak into the atmosphere. Do not confuse the sun rays with solar winds. Sun rays only take 8 minutes to reach the Earth.
In the first picture which has been taken from a spaceship you can see the auroras above the poles. This has been reproduced here from the internet but I do not remember the reference. However, the rest five pictures are mine which I photographed standing in the open field draped in layers of clothing fighting the severe cold!! There is no limit to what shapes you will find. You may see green wavy bands with purple color in the center jumping around from one side of the sky to the other end or you may find a master painter using the sky as his canvas showing limitless compositions. These artworks change by minutes to take different shapes from a river to a dancing and flaming aurora to something that looks like a hat. They waver, they flutter, they rotate themselves and change intensity in minutes. It leaves you awestricken and speechless and makes you think that how lucky you are to watch this.
However, the down side of all this is that "nature" is whimsical and after all the preparation you have visited Iceland (in the recommended month) most likely November to February but the Northern lights never appeared. If it is raining, drizzling or the sky is cloudy, the chances are low. We were lucky to experience the northern lights but what I heard from the tour guides that the groups before us did not have as good a luck. So there is always that chance and that is the reason I call it elusive. However, I am not discouraging you from taking a trip to Iceland and always hope for the best. Also there are so many other things to do and see in Iceland that a trip there will always be a great experience. By the way, taking pictures of the northern light is very tricky. Read up in Google before you go. I had to improvise some techniques. You or your parents can call me if you need any advice. Please do not mind if I sound like a teacher because I am a born teacher. That is what I did in Universities in India, Iran and in the US besides looking for oil and gas all over the world.
Hope you enjoy the Northern Lights.
Sunit K. Addy