In this land of ice and snow, the stars are only a backdrop for the true celestial scene-stealer: the Aurora Borealis.
A clear sky is a tranquil thing. Beyond just beauty, a brilliant nighttime canvas dotted with stars can provoke introspection and inspiration in even the most close-minded individuals. But when you live in a place where smog or clouds frequently obscure the sky, you rarely get to see the stars at all. In fact, you might be grateful for the once-in-a-blue-moon night when you can make out a constellation or two. Not very Zen, to say the least.
Imagine, then, a destination where the sky is clear almost year round – more than 300 days a year. So is the norm in Greenland. However, in this land of ice and snow, the stars are only a backdrop for the true celestial scene-stealer: the Aurora Borealis. In Greenland, it’s fairly easy to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights with the casual ease of watching a sunset, except in the summer months.
The Aurora Borealis can be easily explained despite its otherworldly appearance. It’s a reaction caused by solar-charged particles mingling with the earth’s atmosphere. Although this phenomenon has a scientific explanation, it does not detract from the poetic quality of the lights. Their undulating movement evokes a celestial playtime for many. Inuits saw them as a game of football amongst the dead. Herman Melville once referred to the Aurora as “the phantom-host,” registering both “splendor and terror” at their ghostly life. And while the lights may not function as a confirmation of life after death, some people experience a spiritual awakening after viewing them. Of course, everyone is welcome to his or her own interpretation of the lights – artistic, spiritual, or otherwise.
Visiting Greenland to see the Aurora Borealis is recommended during the autumn and winter seasons – September through mid-April – because the prevalent sunlight during the summer months impedes the view of the lights. Kangerlussuag is the most reliable viewing destination, and it is conveniently located near Greenland’s international airport.
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