Rare Northern Lights Dazzle Switzerland: A Guide to Catching the Next Spectacle
Switzerland’s Rare Northern Lights Spectacle
In a rare and mesmerizing spectacle, Switzerland experienced a display of the Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis. Typically associated with the far northern reaches of Europe, the occurrence of this phenomenon in Switzerland is quite unusual. The spectacle was visible due to a unique combination of clear skies and strong solar eruptions.
Understanding the Phenomenon
The Northern Lights are a natural light display caused by an interaction between charged particles from space and the Earth’s atmosphere. This interaction is triggered by solar winds, which consist of charged particles ejected from the sun. When these particles reach the Earth’s atmosphere, they are deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field and directed towards the polar regions. The closer these particles get to the poles, the more energy and light they release. The color of the Northern Lights depends on the type of gas particles they interact with and the altitude at which these interactions occur. Green northern lights often arise from interaction with oxygen at higher levels, while red or violet colors can arise from interaction with nitrogen.
Preconditions for the Spectacle
For the Northern Lights to be visible, two conditions need to be met: a complete absence of cloud cover and strong solar eruptions. Both of these conditions were present on the night of the spectacle, allowing the Northern Lights to be seen clearly. Contrary to popular belief, the appearance of the Northern Lights is not confined to the winter season. The ideal months to observe this natural spectacle are September, October, February, and March. Clear skies are forecasted for the upcoming nights, but the solar winds, a crucial condition for the occurrence of the Northern Lights, are expected to decrease.
Viewing the Northern Lights in Switzerland
Interestingly, the Northern Lights were not just visible from high mountains but also from smaller hills, as long as there was an unobstructed view towards the north. This attests to the strength of the solar eruptions and the ideal atmospheric conditions that allowed for this rare spectacle to be enjoyed from various vantage points across Switzerland.
The recommended locations for viewing the Northern Lights in Switzerland include Säntis, which offers accommodation near the summit, and Titlis, an elevated point that might pose a challenge for overnight stays. Mönchsjochhütte, located at 3650 meters above sea level and reachable from Jungfraujoch within 45 minutes by foot, is also a good spot. However, it requires good footwear and excellent fitness. Bachtel and Hörnli in the Canton of Zurich can also be options due to their lower altitude and proximity to urban areas, but the chance of seeing the Northern Lights is less.
Photographing the Northern Lights
For those interested in capturing this spectacle, professional nature and landscape photographer Lukas Moesch suggests using a lens with a focal length of 20 to 85 mm and a good light intensity of 1.8–2.8. The shutter speeds can go up to 20 seconds, depending on the focal length. The maximum shutter speed can be calculated using the formula “400/Focal length = Shutter speed”. A manual white balance setting of 4000K and an ISO value of 5000 to 10,000 should be used to ensure visibility of the Northern Lights. Lastly, it’s advised to bring extra batteries and memory cards.
Looking Forward: Future Viewing Opportunities
As the phenomenon of the Northern Lights is largely dependent on solar and atmospheric conditions, predicting their occurrence can be quite challenging. However, with the right conditions and a bit of luck, residents and visitors may yet have the chance to witness this breathtaking display of nature’s beauty in the future.
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