It’s a sight that has caused excitement, awe, joy and even fear over the centuries – the brilliant multi-coloured Northern Lights that occasionally illuminate the dark skies of the Northern Hemisphere.
A major tourist industry has become established in recent years, charging people desperate to experience the phenomenon large amounts for trips to vast and dark wildernesses in Iceland and Scandinavia.
But the truth is that Scotland is far north enough to offer a decent chance to see the aurora borealis, and has plenty of locations where the skies are dark enough for the lights to shine.
They’ve even been seen in Edinburgh in recent times.
The moving patterns of green, blue, purple and red are caused by solar storms on the surface of the sun, which create clouds of electrically charged particles that are forcefully expelled.
Some of these particles collide with the Earth, with some becoming caught in the planet’s magnetic field, where they are attracted to the north and south poles.
This collection of particles collide with atoms and molecules already present in the atmosphere, heating them up and causing them to glow – creating the Northern Lights.
The closer you are to the North Pole, the higher your chance of seeing them, with most of Scotland in the zone where they are – in theory – regularly visible.
And autumn and winter are the best time to catch a display, with long cold nights and (hopefully) clear skies providing the perfect conditions.
Of course you need to be lucky, but a regular check of the Aurora Watch website, which measures the amount of solar activity each day, will let you know when it’s worth heading out to try your luck.
Here are 10 of the best places in Scotland to go aurora hunting.
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