You could be almost twice as likely to see the Northern Lights this and next year

Having examined historical data, soft adventure specialist Off the Map Travel has evidence that suggests you could be twice as likely to see the northern lights during a solar maximum, compared to a solar minimum.

The solar magnetic activity that causes aurora displays follows an 11 year cycle with the next maximum due in early 2013. A solar maximum is shown by an increase in the number of sunspots, intense periods of magnetic activity, visible on the face of the Sun.

“The magnetic fields of the Sun and the Earth interact via the solar wind, a stream of charged particles flowing from the Sun,” explains Dr. Graeme Smith from the Department of Theoretical Physics at Oxford University. “Under certain conditions this interaction can accelerate electrons towards the Earth’s polar regions. Collision of these particles with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere can cause them to emit auroral light, the colour would depend on the energies of the electrons and what sort of atoms they hit.”

He continues: “Stronger solar activity, like that in a solar maximum, leads to a greater frequency and intensity of auroral displays, and can lead to aurorae being visible at lower latitudes. Impressive auroral displays are therefore significantly more likely near a maximum in the solar activity cycle than near a solar minimum.”

During our last solar cycle, known as Cycle 23, the number of sunspots jumped from 8.0 *1 in 1996 to 128.8 *1 in 2000 with the number of geomagnetic storms increasing by 93% *2 over the same period. This doubling of geomagnetic storms could very well have resulted in the chances of viewing the aurora doubling during the solar maximum.

Cycle 24 is now rising toward its most intense period of solar activity, with approximately 70 *3 sunspots in October already recorded and a number of powerful geomagnetic storms already giving areas in the aurora circle spectacular light shows.

Although the aurora can be seen from a number places, the Abisko and Björkliden region of Northern Sweden are widely regarded as one of the best in the world.

Jonny Cooper, managing director of Off the Map Travel, a soft adventure travel company that specialises in the Northern Lights, comments: “The Northern Lights has got to be one of the most spectacular natural shows on earth. It really has to be seen to be believed and with the sun entering the period of solar maximum there is no better time to get out there and see it for yourself.”

Set amongst the mighty mountains of the Arctic, 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Abisko and Björkliden are located within a rain shadow and away from the bright lights of the cities, providing some of the clearest and darkest skies in skies in the world for seeing the northern lights.

Swedish and international scientists at the IRF in Northern Sweden estimate that visitors staying in the area for three or more days have nearly an 80% *4 chance of viewing an Aurora – much higher than many other locations around the world.

Chad Blakely, renowned northern lights photographer from Lights Over Lapland who is based in Abisko, comments: “I really have never seen such intense aurora as we have recently. They have simply been stunning. We’re not only getting more intense shows, but they are more frequent than I can ever remember them in the area.”

Off the Map Travel tailor make a travel itinerary to the region so there’s no need to worry about a thing. Why not learn and take you own stunning photograph with celebrated aurora photographer Chad Blakley from Lights Over Lapland; visit the world famous Aurora Sky Station or take a trip on a dogsled – whatever soft adventure you’re looking for, this winter wonderland has it all.

Jonny Cooper, director of Off the Map Travel explains: “Swedish Lapland really is one of the most remarkable areas for a visit. Offering comfort and luxury, adventure and a family friendly culture, it is perfectly set up for the discerning couple, family or group wanting something new from their holiday experience.”

For more information visit www.offthemap.travel, call 0800 566 8901 or email [email protected]