Aurora Borealis: The Northern Lights

By Abi King | Inspire Me

Oct 03

Aurora Borealis – Northern Lights

The Northern Lights have always fascinated me. I’ve heard the explanations: how oxygen and nitrogen release photons after colliding high in the atmosphere and how that energy looks green or red, according to the time frame or distance, or something else that only ever seemed semi-plausible.

Despite studying science, there are a few things that always seem magical to me (or perhaps I just enjoy thinking of them that way.)

The Northern Lights are one such phenomenon. A greenish glow, occasionally scarlet, expressed as a paintbrush sweep across the sky, as fickle and fast as a dream.

Their other name, Aurora Borealis, comes from Aurora, the Roman Goddess of Dawn and the Greek word for north wind, Borealis.

Yet in the middle of the night, braced against the glacial breeze of southeast Alaska, I wasn’t paying much attention to the science, nor thinking about names.

I was simply enjoying the view: mother nature’s pyrotechnics at their very best.

The Northern Lights Practicalities

I saw the Northern Lights from the side of an American Safari Cruises yacht. I took the photo using my Canon 400D, with the max ISO and a shutter speed of about four minutes. That explains the red glow at the base of the photograph…it’s a ship safety light rather than the real Aurora Borealis! The white flecks are stars, though…


About the Author

Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on

Susie Forbes October 3, 2010

Great photo!

IsabellesTravel October 3, 2010

Abi, seeing the Northern Light has been on my list for a long time, seeing your picture and your description wants me to see it even more :) And Alaska sounds like the perfect place to see it!

Name Tags October 11, 2010

I really hope that I get to see the northern lights at least one time before I die. Must have been amazing!

Abi King October 12, 2010

Thanks…being on small boat with no-one else to see for miles did make it an even more exceptional experience. Sigh…I’d love to go back and do it all again!

sofie November 2, 2012

Seems like an amazing thing to see. I’d love to see it one day. All cuddled up against boyfriend.
Watch out, I’m getting romantic here :-)

    Abi King November 13, 2012

    Well, this is apparently the year! It should be easy to see them this winter apparently – even from Scotland.

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