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Date: 03/02/2011

Northern Lights

There's no more spectacular display of nature than the Northern Lights. Also known as the Aurora Borealis (named after the Roman goddess of dawn and the Greek name for north wind), it is included in many '100 things to do before you die' lists and rightly so. You absolutely have to see this spectacle with your own eyes to understand its majesty. Located in the northern hemisphere, auroras create blue, violet, green and red magical lights that appear to dance across the sky in the most jaw dropping and phenomenal patterns, making the sky literally come to life in front of your eyes.

So what exactly is the Aurora Borealis? Well, to put it in layman's terms, the Northern Lights are the result of solar storms that create plasma clouds in deep space. These clouds travel at a million kilometres an hour for some 2 to 3 days to reach Earth, at which point Earth's magnetic fields draw them in to the magnetic poles. When the electrically charged particles (space plasma) eventually collide with our atmospheric emissions, they turn into light particles, providing the stunning light display we see in the night skies.

Your chances of seeing the Northern Lights improve greatly the further you can travel towards the Northern Magnetic Pole, thus making places like Canada, Alaska, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Greenland ideal destinations. However, if you don't want to travel too far afield, Northern Scotland has its fare share too. Lakes, plains and national parks provide the best vantage point and September to April the best time of year (however, September to October and again March to April are optimum viewing months).

If you consider yourself a budding photographer, there are a few things that you should know, according to Swedish photographer Emil Eckerstein who has over 10 years experience capturing Borealis' beauty. "It takes a lot of patience. You could be waiting for hours for the perfect frame and even then, capturing what you see with your own eyes is incredibly difficult. You need highly photosensitive cameras and lenses but most of all you need a lot of luck. You also need to dress very warmly!"

He admits that it can take several attempts to get the right shot, so if you're planning on bringing back a memento of your sightings, you'll really need to be spending more than a couple of hours hunting them down on your holiday. But according to Emil, there really is nothing more spectacular to see in your lifetime than the Aurora Borealis.

If you are travelling out of the country to cross the Arctic Circle for some prime photo shoots, or any other reason for that matter, it's essential you cover your trip and your expensive photographical equipment with some cheap travel insurance. If you travel frequently for this sort of thing then you should look into multi trip travel insurance, as this can cover you and your valuables for several trips at a time and different regions without the hassle of having to renew every time you need to get away.