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Could We Really Lose The Northern Lights From Our Skies?

Northern Lights Isle Of Skye

British scientists have recently announced findings that point to the fact that the Northern Lights may soon disappear from our skies. Predictions based on solar cycles seem to suggest that the Earth is heading into a period known as a ‘grand solar minimum’. This is when solar activity on the sun reduces, solar winds become weaker and the heliosphere (a protective atmosphere around our solar system) shrinks to only cover the region around the North Pole. So, if these predictions are correct, would sightings of the Aurora Borealis become a thing of the past?

The short answer is no. Whilst sightings from lower latitudes, such as the UK, may drastically decrease, the Northern Lights would continue to light up the sky in places such as Greenland, Iceland, Canada and Spitsbergen. We would even continue to see this fantastic natural phenomenon in Scotland and the north of England, but appearances would be much more sporadic.

Data from previous ‘grand solar minimums’ (most importantly the Maunder minimum of the 1600s) shows that solar activity could reduce by as much 99%. However, it’s important to point out that there is no guarantee when the Earth will enter this new period in the sun’s cycle or even if it will at all. If the scientists from Reading University are correct, we can expect this to happen in the next 30 years. Even if this is the case, though, the Northern Lights will still grace our skies from time to time and will still be visible to those choosing to take Arctic cruises.

Rare Aurora, Red Aurora

Red Northern Lights

Speaking of rare auroras, series two of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude recently burst onto our screens with talk of an ominous blood red aurora bringing a sense of foreboding to the fictional Arctic town. It turns out that, although the Northern Lights are usually seen as green, they can often be seen as red at lower latitudes because of the way that we see different colours at different levels of the atmosphere. Therefore, a red aurora is one that is so intense it appears at around 300 kilometres high instead of 100.

The bad omens associated with this sight can be traced back thousands of years to when the colour was thought to be a harbinger of war or a representation of fiery dragons. Even more recent events like the death of Julius Cesar and the American Civil War are said to be been preceded by this rare event filling the sky.

Incidentally, Spitsbergen – the setting for the fictional town of Fortitude – is a great place to see the Northern Lights. Travelling in March or September will give you a great chance of witnessing this awesome spectacle. Just speak to our team for more information or to book your expedition cruise.

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