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The Northern and The Southern Lights

Updated on January 3, 2021
Ankita B profile image

Ankita loves to explore various aspects of science and is passionate about writing on topics of her interest.

The northern lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, and the southern lights, also known as Aurora Australis, are a light display mostly seen in the higher latitude regions. These magnificent natural lights occur due to the sun’s charged particles being trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. It is a dream of many people to see these wonderful lights in the night sky. The main things to consider for having a view of this phenomenal show is to find a region at high altitude (above 55°) and also a region with low pollution. Moonless nights are considered the best!

The northern and the southern lights are the same celestial phenomenon but occurring in the opposite poles. People most often hear about the northern lights but the southern lights are not so popular because of their location which is not easily accessible by many. But the southern lights are equally captivating and worth watching. Here is a list of the best places to see the northern and the southern lights.

Best Places to see the Northern Lights

Iceland: Due to unfavorable weather, it may be tough for many people to enjoy clear skies; but places along the coastline road offer a clear view of the night sky. Kirkjufell Mountain on the west coast, suburbs of Reykjavik and the popular Grotta Lighthouse are some of the regions where the beautiful northern lights can be seen. The favorable time is from late August to early April.

Yellowknife, Canada: It has its own Aurora Village and provides tourism for people with special activities to see the lights. Due to its low light pollution, Canada is often known as Aurora viewing paradise. It is best viewed from the regions Wood Buffalo and Jasper National Park. Mid- August to late April is the most favorable time to see the lights from here.

Fairbanks, Alaska: It is located just two degrees below the Arctic and is considered to be the best place in the U.S. to see the northern lights. The favorable time is from late August to mid-April. With its own forecast system, it predicts the celestial scene beforehand and offers tours for people to view them.

Tromsø, Norway: Spectacular northern lights can be seen from Lofoten Islands, far northern towns of Alta, Nordkapp, Kirkenes, from Ersfjordbotn village (12 miles from Tromsø). The best time to go is from mid-September to late March.

Greenland: Auroras can be seen from northern Greenland in Nuuk from late August to Mid April. Also if one heads farther south, beautiful attractions along with the northern lights can be seen like Qaleraliq Glacier, which has small icebergs even in summer. The favourable time to view the lights from the south is from Mid August to late April.

Northern Sweden: The town of Kiruna has beautiful attractions like the ICEHOTEL, mountainous Abisko National Park, etc, and a small drive from their offers a good spot for viewing the northern lights. Also, the weather is much more favourable than the Norwegian coast. The best time to go is from mid-September to late March.

Finland: Finland’s Lapland region provides several attractions along with snow-covered trees in winter called Tykky sculptures. From there, the northern lights can be seen from mid-September to late March.

Best Places to see the Southern Lights

Tasmania, Australia: Bruny Island offers a prime viewing sight, with minimal pollution, to see the southern lights. When the conditions are right, one can even view the southern lights from Hobart’s highest peaks. Other regions in Tasmania are Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Mount Nelson, South Arm Peninsula. Any time of the year is favorable to see the lights but chances are more near equinoxes.

New Zealand: Few locations in New Zealand are known to offer excellent viewing sites of the Aurora. Stewart Island, Queenstown are some of the regions where the beautiful southern lights can be enjoyed. The best time of the year to go is near the equinoxes.

Antarctica: A magnificent combination of pink, purple, and green colors in the night sky can be seen from the Antarctic, where the untouched landscapes offer a wonderful and clearer view of the southern lights. South Georgia, too, is one of the best places in the Antarctic Circle to see the Aurora. The best time to go is from June to September. In South Georgia, lights can be seen from early March as well.

Patagonia, Chile and Argentina: The southernmost place in South America too gives a chance to see the southern lights if one is lucky enough! May and July are favorable months to visit though it is difficult to count on it. The Falkland Islands situated in the east of Argentinian Patagonia, though less known, provides a pretty good view of the aurora. The favourable months to witness the lights are from May to August.

Observe the Auroras

Did you ever witness the northern or the southern lights?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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    • Ankita B profile imageAUTHOR

      Ankita B 

      10 months ago

      Thank you Brenda for your lovely comments. I would love to see those lights someday too. I am glad you enjoyed reading this article.

    • Brenda Arledge profile image

      BRENDA ARLEDGE 

      10 months ago from Washington Court House

      Ankita,

      I would love to see these lights in all their glory.

      We have had a change in the sky which people say is from the northern lights...but I live in Ohio so I know it is not the grand phenomenon I would love to see.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Ankita B profile imageAUTHOR

      Ankita B 

      13 months ago

      Thank you so much Linda. Much appreciated.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      13 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I would love to see the northern and the southern lights. Thank you for sharing the information and the beautiful photos.

    • Ankita B profile imageAUTHOR

      Ankita B 

      13 months ago

      Thank you very much Shreya. I appreciate as always.

    • Shreya MK profile image

      Shreya MK 

      13 months ago

      Interesting article Ms. Ankita :)

    • Ankita B profile imageAUTHOR

      Ankita B 

      13 months ago

      Thank you Manasi for your kind comment. I really appreciate.

    • Ankita B profile imageAUTHOR

      Ankita B 

      13 months ago

      Thank you so much Lisha for your kind comment. It's in my bucket list too.

    • Ankita B profile imageAUTHOR

      Ankita B 

      13 months ago

      Indeed you are fortunate Lorna. Thank you so much for your lovely comment and the experience you have shared. Much appreciated.

    • Manasi Patil profile image

      Manasi Patil 

      13 months ago from Mumbai

      Wow! It's very informative and, amazing.

      Unfortunately, I have not experienced the lights yet, but then, life is still a pending journey!

    • Lisha C profile image

      Lisha C 

      13 months ago

      This is an interesting read. I had never thought much about witnessing these lights, but it certainly does look lovely. I now think it's time to add this experience to my bucket list!

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      13 months ago

      This is an excellent article, well structured with beautiful photos. I was lucky enough to experience the 'Southern Lights' when I lived in Australia. It was on a trip to Tasmania and the experience was unforgettable.

    • Ankita B profile imageAUTHOR

      Ankita B 

      13 months ago

      Thank you JC Scull.

    • JC Scull profile image

      JC Scull 

      13 months ago from Gainesville, Florida

      Very interesting article Ankita.

    • Ankita B profile imageAUTHOR

      Ankita B 

      13 months ago

      Yes southern lights are not frequently discussed. Thank you so much Liz for your lovely comment.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      13 months ago from UK

      I had not heard of the southern lights before. This is an interesting and informative article with amazing illustrations. I know people who have seen the northern lights. Maybe one day I will get to see them.

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