Abundant Northern Lights continue to grace Astronomy's Norway cruise

Posted by Eric Betz
on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Northern Lights loom bright overhead, as the Hurtigruten vessel MS Nordnorge moves through the Troll Fjords on October 8, 2015. // Allen Hwang
Mother Nature continues to deliver northern lights in abundance for our Astronomy magazine/TravelQuest International tour of Norway's Aurora, Culture, and Scenic Wonders.

Aurorae struck for a third consecutive night on Thursday, adding to the general feeling of good luck onboard the Hurtigruten vessel MS Nordnorge. Even here north of the Arctic Circle, the weather is sunny and relatively warm during the day, with crisp, aurora filled evenings. Behind the glow, the northern skies brim with stars circling Polaris, which remains fixed nearly directly overhead. This is the bear's realm — the region of sky ruled by Ursa Majoris, the Big Dipper.

Our ship cruised into the Lofoten Islands at around 7 p.m. local time last Thursday, where we departed via tour bus for a "Viking feast" at a local museum. The event was well orchestrated, something like a classy version of the Medieval Times restaurants so popular in the United States.

As soon as we had unloaded from the bus, a thick band of green aurora stretching across the sky began to erupt in activity. The green quickly added whites and other hues before the arc dissolved in a firework-style burst of orange.

Aurora also awaited us as we returned to the ship and went back out to sea.

The Northern Lights have put on a spectacular show for multiple nights of our tour. // Allen Hwang
 The Nordnorge's captain led us into a narrow passage between mountains known as Troll Fjord, where there was just enough room for the ship to turn around. The lights danced overhead while we drank spiked hot tea and cups of fish soup.

Then, as quickly as the aurora arrived, they went dormant. But we journeyed beneath a diffuse green cloud through the rest of the night.

And, because we couldn't get enough of the skies, many in the group awoke early the next morning to catch the planetary alignment of Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury, which appeared in a tight group with the crescent Moon.

The sight of the planets rising along with the Sun over the snow covered fjords was one I'll not soon forget.

Eric Betz is an associate editor of Astronomy magazine. He's on Twitter: @ericbetz.

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