Outer space provides everything from light shows to optical illusions and even ways to navigate the oceans without a compass or a map. When you’re travelling you usually focus on day time things or sometimes which club or restaurant to go to that night. By doing this you miss some of the best (and sometimes free) natural occurrences that you can only see at night or that can turn an evening sky pitch black.
Here are a few things you won’t want to miss this year.
The Aurora Borealis
This is probably the most famous of the free night time shows you can see in the sky. If you’re up north, in Finland or anywhere in the Arctic where you can see the amazing northern lights, try to find a cheap way to leave the city you’re in and go camping. Just make sure to pack plenty of thermal or flannel pajamas to stay warm as you are going to need them underneath your winter and weather appropriate clothing.
If you don’t mind spending a little to really enjoy the northern lights, check out one of the many hotels that provide glass top igloos that you can rent for the night during the northern lights. This way you not only get to see them while walking around in nature, you also get to fall asleep while watching as they help you relax and pass out for the night. Simply Google the terms Igloo Hotel Northern Lights and then add the country or city you are in to find the closest one.
If traveling way up north is out of the question, you do have one much more normal and warmer option if you’re in the USA, Washington DC. Each year the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts hires the world famous Nordic lighting designer Jesper Kongshaug. Jesper takes his amazing talent with lighting and turns the side of the massive structure into an almost perfect replica of the actual Northern Lights. It is absolutely beautiful and more importantly free. You just need to walk to the bridge that crosses to Virginia or rent a car and drive by from the Virginia side of the Potomac River for a close view. Your last option is to use one of the hiking trails or tourist spots to sit across the river and enjoy seeing the northern lights in a much more southern and warmer setting.
Meteor Showers + Comets
Meteor showers and comets are some of the coolest things you’ll ever see. What’s better is that they are free and you don’t need to buy any special equipment to observe the large ones.
To get the best view of a meteor shower, you’ll want to try to find an area far enough away from the city you are in. If you type in “light pollution map” and your city name into a search engine, you should be able to locate how many miles or kilometers you’ll need to move in order to find the best possible place to view a meteor shower. You can then search for national parks or fields in the areas outside the light pollution maps and you may also want to check out camp grounds where you can get a good view.
The last thing you’ll want to do is focus on being there predawn or late evening. These are the best times to view meteor showers because the earth is tilting towards the path where the asteroids are entering the atmosphere and turning into meteors. If you have a compass, you’ll want to use it to find the point of entry for the best viewing. Don’t worry if you don’t because once you track where they start from, you can figure out which direction is which as they start coming into site.
Meteor Showers for 2013
Bats Over Austin, Texas
One of the coolest evening/nighttime sky events happens in Austin Texas from March to early November where up to 1.5 million bats come flying out of the tunnel they sleep in during the day.
Just as the sun begins to set, you’ll start feeling the crowd getting nervous and excited. Some people are afraid of them while others can’t wait to see them. Sometimes you might see a random bird or two and a woman will scream or a kid will yell “I see them!”, then all of the sudden up to 1.5 million bats take flight and surround the once-lit sky into a fluttering darkness full of what seems like chaotic behavior and screeches but is really just a huge group of these fun and adorable creatures.
Depending on where you are in the world, there is almost always something you won’t want to miss in the sky above you. It could be a gorgeous light show like meteors or the northern lights or even something like a massive amount of animals that appear out of nowhere and take over the entire sky. These naturally occurring events are mostly free and something you’ll want to take a night off from partying or sleeping to stay up and get to see.