colours whipping about above you and bouncing back and forth like fireworks, they impress even the most unimpressable.
Legends about them abound. The Sami, the indigenous people of Scandinavia, believe the Northern Lights are the souls of the dead, and traditionally stay indoors when the lights appear, to show respect.
In Norwegian folklore, the light shows are caused by dead maidens dancing or old women weaving (yes we’re not sure how, either) and were often seen as a bad omen because it meant the gods were in a foul mood.
If you want a scientific explanation, however, then settle down and pay attention.
The aurora borealis is actually caused by a stream of charged particles spewing out from the sun and shooting to earth. When they get here, our magnetic poles bend them to the Arctic and Antarctic. They then have – in scientific terms – ‘a bit of a bust-up’ with nitrogen and oxygen molecules, which releases bursts of energy in the form of visible light.
The best time of year to catch a show is October to March, but its possible to see them outside this period if you’re lucky.
But the aurora isn’t the only scientific oddity of this part of the world. If you want to see what midnight sun looks like or the opposite – darkness nearly 24 hours a day – Norway’s the place to go.
And there’s one more curiosity to experience. The polar air is so pure, you can see incredibly long distances without realising it. When this combines with a type of mirage known as a fata morgana (itself caused by the atmospheric effect of thermal inversion) the upshot is that you see things quite clearly which aren’t there. Yes it’s spooky.