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Alaskan northern lights tour with Astronomy magazine

Astronomy magazine and Specialty Tours are headed to Alaska, March 4-12, to enjoy grand views of the northern lights.
For more information, contact:
Matt Quandt
Assistant editor
Astronomy magazine
(w) 262.796.8776 x.419
(cell) 414.719.0116
mquandt@astronomy.com


February 16, 2005

IN THIS RELEASE: TOUR ITINERARY — WHAT IS THE AURORA BOREALIS — SPECIALTY TOURS CONTACT INFORMATION — MORE ASTRONOMY TOURS — AVAILABLE IMAGES

Astronomy magazine offers publication-quality graphics for this release below.


WAUKESHA, WI — Astronomy magazine is hosting a number of trips in 2005. The first, from March 4-12, is a tour of Alaska to see the northern lights, cosponsored by Specialty Tours. This is Astronomy magazine's sixth annual trip to Alaska to view the northern lights, or aurora borealis. Since the first tour in 2000, travelers have seen many spectacular aurorae.

Tour itinerary
The tour's first full day, March 5, begins with a lecture explaining the science of aurorae by retired geophysics professor Neal Brown, a leading scholar in the field. The group will then travel to Chena Hot Springs Resort, 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks, for the next 4 nights. Viewing conditions at Chena are more favorable than Fairbanks because of the lack of light pollution — the resort is literally at the end of the road.

During at least 1 night, Francis Reddy, associate editor of Astronomy magazine, will host a star party. Throughout the trip, Reddy will present lectures and slide presentations. Other activities at Chena include snowmobile rides, dogsled rides, and a sunset snow-monkey ride to the top of a mountain. Travelers also can cross-country ski, ice skate, snowshoe, and — probably the most popular activity — relax in the hot springs. Evenings are reserved for aurora viewing, and because the most intense region of the aurora passes over east-central Alaska, the shows are spectacular.

On March 9, the trip continues to downtown Fairbanks for 3 nights. Guests will find a wide range of activities in Fairbanks, including everything from a visit to the University of Alaska Museum to skiing, shopping, or just curling up with a good book. For each night that looks promising, a motor coach will take guests to dark skies. The group also will have a private showing of "Auroras: The Crown of Light" — the world's only wide-screen aurora presentation — at the Firehouse Theater just outside Fairbanks.

On the last full day, March 11, the tour will visit the famous Ice Festival to see carvers from around the globe compete in the World Ice Art Championship. Afterwards, the group will attend a star party hosted by a local astronomy club.

What is the aurora borealis?
The aurora borealis — more commonly known as the northern lights — is caused by the interaction between charged particles from the Sun and Earth's atmospheric gases.

The solar wind, a fast-moving stream of particles ejected from the Sun's surface, flows past Earth's magnetic field. Occasionally, the solar wind's magnetic field will merge with Earth's, creating electrical currents that drive protons and electrons into the polar atmosphere. There, charged particles excite atmospheric gas atoms: excited oxygen atoms give off yellow-green light; ionized molecular nitrogen emits blue and violet light; at lower altitudes, excited nitrogen and oxygen molecules emit vivid red light.

Observers at higher latitudes see an array of colors produced by a more intense aurora. This has been participants' experience in the past and is what Astronomy magazine and Specialty Tours hope to repeat during its sixth tour to Alaska.

Specialty Tours contact information
Phone: (800) 677.9412
Web: a1specialtytours.com
E-mail: steves@a1specialtytours.com

More Astronomy tours
Upcoming trips with Astronomy magazine will venture to the Galapagos (March 31-April 14) and Tahiti (April 2-April 16) for the April 8 total solar eclipse; Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca (June 19-29); and Hawaii (June 25-July 2). More information on these trips can be found at: Astronomy trips and tours

Releases for each trip will be sent out soon.

Available images
Dazzling northern lights in Alaska
These broad emerald vistas are just some of the beautiful sights during Astronomy magazine's trip to Alaska. Click here for a larger version of this image.
Marvin Nauman
Tour bus to the northern lights
To better view the aurora, a bus will take tour group members from Fairbanks' city lights to dark skies. Click here for a larger version of this image.
Marvin Nauman
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