Northern Lights - The Scientific Explanation

  • ~ mins read

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis as the scientific term goes, are one of the most captivating natural beauties one can witness in life. They were originally named after Aurora, the Greek goddess of dawn. And when witnessing them in person, one can definitely understand how they came to be associated with divine connotations.

If you have never seen the northern lights in person or through image; picture a dark night sky with lengthy trails of neon green, blue, and violet blending together in a wonderful symphony. Ordinary rainbows are perhaps the closest natural phenomenon to this wonder, and a comparison to them really does not do the northern lights justice. They are definitely a sight that is necessary to witness at least once in everyone’s life.

Amazing trip!
  • Hannah
  • From England
5 - Excellent
“We had a wonderful trip out to Thorsmork, our guide was excellent and the jeep was re...” Read More
View Incredible Tours in Iceland

The Scientific Explanation Behind Northern Lights

Aurora Borealis in Iceland
Aurora reflections on Stokksnes black beach in center Iceland

The scientific explanation behind the Aurora Borealis is actually quite complex. Charged particles traveling all the way from the surface of the sun hit the earth’s atmosphere and collide with the numerous gas molecules residing there. The atmosphere is made up of many different types of gaseous elements, and the type of gas that meets the sun particles causes the fascinating variation in color of the northern lights. Certain colors, such as the most common highlights of turquoise occur lower in the atmosphere, around 60 miles above ground level. At higher altitudes the hues change and the pink tones can get up to 200 miles above ground level. So there is a variation of both color and depth to the beautiful scenery. Normally the earth has a magnetic field which deflects these particles before they reach the inner atmosphere. However, at the poles of the earth these fields are weaker. This is why the northern lights can only be witnessed in a limited number of key locations across the globe such as Finland, NorwayScotland, Iceland, and Greenland.

Experiencing Northern Lights is truly spectacular so make sure that you know the best time of year to see Northern Lights on Iceland, to increase the chance of a great Northern Lights Experience. Please also check the best time of the year to visit Iceland and the top things to do on Iceland.

Published by Erik Jensen, updated on July 17, 2023

Related Articles

Plan a trip to IcelandWe offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to Iceland.
  • Harpa Groiss
    Harpa GroissTravel Expert in Iceland
Our travel experts are recommended by:
  • BBC
  • Independent
  • Lonely Planet