It's said to be the southernmost city on the globe, located at the southern tip of Argentina [source: Aurora]. Ushuaia is closer to the Antarctic Circle than Tasmania, South Georgia and Stewart Island. It would seem a likely spot to see the lights.
And it is -- but when it comes to the aurora australis, "likely" means "possible." Still, the Southern Lights do appear over Ushuaia, and it's remarkably easier to get there, stay there and tour there than, say, South Georgia Island. Or the South Pole.
In winter time, Ushuaia is in darkness for about 17 hours a day, which leaves the door open for sightings -- if the timing and the weather are right [source: Patagonia]. The weather here, however, is rather unstable, throwing another factor into the luck pile [source: Patagonia].
Maybe that's what it's about, though -- adventure, luck and the surprise of a sky suddenly exploding with ribbons of neon light. The aurora australis can be tough to catch, and even great efforts may fail. For some aurora seekers, that's part of the allure.
For the rest, and for those who try valiantly and still miss the show, the Aurora Borealis is waiting up North -- easier to get to, more likely to appear when people are watching and a practical mirror to the lights of the south. The only difference, in the end, is latitude.
For more information on the auroras, the polar regions and atmospheric phenomena, check out the links below.
Author's Note: 10 Best Spots on Earth to Watch the Auroras
Is it strange that I dedicated half an article about where to see the auroras to places where it's unlikely to happen? Perhaps. But I discovered early on in my research that many people don't know there are Southern Lights. The commonly photographed aurora borealis, and the popularity of Alaska as a tourist destination, seems to have embedded the aurora as a Northern phenomenon to such a great extent that its Southern counterpart has slipped through the general-knowledge cracks. And so, my tiny attempt to change that. And maybe help out an adventurer knocking off a bucket list way too quickly for comfort.
- "25 Facts About Murmansk." Northern Experiments – BuroMoscow. (Nov. 12, 2012) http://www.northernexperiments.net/index.php?/murmansk/
- "About the Aurora Borealis: Why does the Aurora appear so frequently over Yellowknife?" Aurora Village. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.auroravillage.com/aurora_facts.html
- Akinmade, Lola. "Top 10 Places to See the Northern Lights." Fodor's. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.fodors.com/travel-photography/top-10-places-to-see-the-northern-lights-218.html
- "Antarctic Region." Polar Regions and Oceans Maps. University of Texas Libraries. 2009. (Nov. 14, 2012) http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/antarctic_region_pol_2009.pdf
- "Aurora." Australian Antarctic Division. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/fact-files/atmosphere/aurora
- "Auroras: Paintings in the Sky." Exploratorium. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.exploratorium.edu/learning_studio/auroras/glossary.html
- "Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights." Fjord Travel Norway. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.fjordtravel.no/tours/winter/northern_lights/northern_lights_safari.html
- "Best places to see the northern lights." Mother Nature Network. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/space/photos/best-places-to-see-the-northern-lights/denali-national-park-alaska
- "Denali." Explore Fairbanks. (Nov. 12, 2012) http://www.explorefairbanks.com/explore/denali/
- "Extensions - Ushuaia: The End of the World." Aurora Expeditions. (Nov. 9, 2012). http://www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/extension/ushuaia-the-end-of-the-world
- "Frequently Asked Questions." International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). (Nov. 7, 2012) http://iaato.org/frequently-asked-questions
- Gonzalez, Daria. "Catching up with northern lights in Russia's Arctic Circle." Russia & India Report. Sept. 15, 2012. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://indrus.in/articles/2012/09/15/catching_up_with_northern_lights_in_russias_arctic_circle_17661.html
- Hansen, Truls Lynne. "The northern lights – what are they?" Tromsø Geophysical Observatory - University of Tromsø. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://geo.phys.uit.no/articl/theaurora.html
- "Kangerlussuaq." Fifty Degrees North (FDN). (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.fiftydegreesnorth.com/places/Kangerlussuaq
- "King Edward Point Research Station." British Antarctic Survey (BAS). (Nov. 9, 2012) http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/king_edward_point/
- "Northern Lights in Greenland." World of Greenland: Artic Circle (WOGAC). (Nov. 7, 2012) http://wogac.com/northern-lights-greenland
- "Stewart Island weather." Stewart Island. (Nov. 9, 2012) http://www.stewartisland.co.nz/index.php?pageLoad=6
- Turbitt, Christopher. "Magnetic Observatory Up and Running." South Georgia Newsletter. South Georgia. March 2011. (Nov. 9, 2012) http://www.sgisland.gs/index.php/%28h%29South_Georgia_Newsletter%2C_March_2011?useskin=#Magnetic_Observatory_Up_And_Running
- "Story: Stewart Island/Rakiura." Teara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (Nov. 9, 2012) http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/stewart-islandrakiura/1/1
- Tate, Jean. "Aurora Australis." Universe Today. Oct. 14, 2009. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.universetoday.com/42623/aurora-australis/
- "Unwin Radar." Southland. (Nov. 9, 2012) http://www.southlandnz.com/Business-in-Southland/Regional-Projects/Space-and-Radio-Science/Unwin-Radar
- "Ushuaia." Patagonia-Argentina. (Nov. 9, 2012) http://www.patagonia-argentina.com/en/ushuaia
- Wong, Hiufu. "5 places to see the brightest Aurora displays." CNN Go. March 13, 2012. (Nov. 7, 2012) http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/escape/5-places-see-brightest-northern-lights-696679
We are in the midst of a 33-year hot streak. HowStuffWorks looks at the causes and whether we can do anything to change it.