2012 wish list: See Northern Lights

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For centuries, the Inuit tribes of the Arctic regarded the dancing ribbons of light that stretched across the night sky throughout the long winter months as the work of mischievous sky-dwellers, or ghostly visitations from the spirits of unmarried women. Today we know this wondrous display of nature at its balletic best as the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights: a celestial phenomenon caused by charged solar particles colliding with Earth's atmosphere, in an event that peaks in activity every 11 years.

Traditionally, Arctic climes are the best place from which to view the lights. Astronomers have caused much excitement, however, with their predictions that the current solar cycle is likely to reach a spectacular zenith in the next year or so. If their calculations are correct, a series of solar flares could be unleashed upon the Earth to rival those of 1958, when the Northern Lights were spotted as far south as Mexico.
If they're right, and this really is the best opportunity to see the lights in more than a generation, then in addition to the customary viewing spots of northern Scandinavia, Canada and Russia, the aurora's distinctive green and gold streamers could easily be visible in the skies above Scotland and northern England, and possibly much farther beyond.

Hurtigruten (0844 448 7601; hurtigruten.co.uk) offers a four-night, half-board Taste of the Arctic cruise, plus a a night's b & b in Tromso, from £850pp.

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