Shimmering Celestial Events: The Northern Lights

Northern Lights, Finland

With the return of the warm weather in the Northern hemisphere, I thought I'd feature some "lighter" fare for our weekly focus on how what's "in the news" is shaping events. Some events take months or even years to organize. Others are accessible free of cost and courtesy of nature. All you have to do is be in the right place at the right time for celestial events that "light up the sky."

The Northern Lights have fascinated people since the dawn of time. If you want to add the wow factor to one of your events without increasing your event budget by a penny, select a destination for one of these celestial sightings for your spring or late winter corporate event or incentive trip.

Today, we'll look at the Northern and Southern Lights. (Stay tuned for a summer feature about the Midnight Sun.)

Auroras Are in the News Again

The Northern and Southern Lights are in the news this week.

MSNBC has been featuring videos, slide shows and a Photoblog of Northern Lights displays.

The Northern Lights

The Aurora Borealis a.k.a. the Northern Lights are created when gaseous particles collide with particles that have been charged and released from the the sun's atmosphere.

Aurora Borealis, FinlandNature's pyrotechnic displays spike roughly every 11 years and the next peak is 2013. For this reason, Sweden has made the Fodor's Go for it List.

Northern Norway above the Arctic Circle, where the viewing period spans from the autumn to the spring equinox, is the best place to view the Northern Lights. (Be sure to avoid dates when the full moon is scheduled to appear as visibility will be reduced.)

Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Sweden and the coastal waters north of Siberia are also excellent vantage points from which to view the Northern Lights.

If you don't have the budget to travel to Scandinavia, there are plenty of places closer to home where you can see the Northern lights. In the Western hemisphere, you can see them in the Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Alaska. There have been sightings as far south as far South as Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and Kansas. Last week, in a colorful and spectacular display, the Northern lights exploded over Minnesota.

The Aurora Forecast website can help you schedule your trip. Here are some places to stay to see the Northern Lights:

Photo Credits: Visit Finland

The Southern Lights

Auroa AustralisThe Aurora Australis, the southern counterpart to the Aurora Borealis, is the same phenomenon but viewed from the southern hemisphere. Think of it as a mirrored reflection of the Aurora Borealis. The best vantage points to view it are in New Zealand. It's only vivid in other locations every 11 years (e.g. Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Falkland Islands, Patagonia and at high altitudes in South America). 2013 is the next ideal viewing period for the Aurora Australis.

Here are some places where groups who want to view the Southern Lights can stay:

Photo Credit: vilebender via Flickr

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