Most romantic natural phenomena

Most romantic natural phenomena

There’s something deeply romantic about witnessing nature’s wonders while hand-in-hand with the one you love. Alexandra Gregg discovers more...

Phosphorescence

Scattered like pieces of treasure across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives' 1,000+ islands offer the ultimate paradise for newlyweds. But under the cover of darkness, there's more to this Nirvana-like cluster than white sands and calm waters. Led by the natural wonder of bioluminescent phytoplankton, the sea's rolling surf glows a phosphorescent blue/green as it laps the shoreline. Many resorts, such as the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, offer night swims so that confident divers can even glide through this glowing ocean.

The science bit: This light-up tidal event is created by millions of phytoplankton, more specifically the dinoflagellates. These contain luciferase, a chemical that glows in the dark when agitated, like when a wave breaks on a beach.

Northern Lights

Probably nature's most renowned marvel, these dancing atmospheric particles are best viewed in the Arctic, in places like Finland, Norway and Iceland. As celestial as their name, the ethereal Northern Lights (aurora borealis) are undoubtedly romantic and with so many ways to see them - while husky sledding through the wilderness, camping in a forest or gazing up through a glass roof - you're likely to have the experience all to yourself.

The science bit: The aurora is caused when charged particles crash into atoms in the high-altitude atmosphere. The particles are then directed into our atmosphere by the Earth's magnetic field.

Shooting stars

Couples can enjoy these phenomena pretty much anywhere. There's only one stipulation: the darker the location the better. While it's possible to catch a glimpse of one or two from urban areas, to witness a sky littered with lights you'll need to avoid that pesky city glow. The other key thing is to get the date and time right, as it will vary depending on where you are in the world. Done that? Then you're all set. Typically the year's most spectacular meteor shower for those in the northern hemisphere is Perseids, which will see the lights soar across the sky from 10-13 August this year. It usually guarantees at least a dozen shooting stars each hour - weather permitting of course! In 2013, South Wales was tipped as one of the best places in the UK to witness the event.

The science bit: You know them as shooting stars or meteors, but these momentary streaks of light are nothing more than microscopic pieces of space debris on a kamikaze run into Earth's atmosphere. Although hundreds of flecks of space dust are on a collision course with us every day, the best time to see them is during a meteor shower, where abundant cosmic dust from comet trails gets knocked loose.

Black sun

Are you and your spouse avid film buffs? Then Denmark's Black Sun experience is the closest you'll get to Hitchcock's The Birds. Just before sunset in spring and autumn, hundreds of thousands of European starlings gather from all corners of the continent to create an impressive symphony in the sky, the flock almost entirely eclipsing the sun. The strange spectacle lasts for around 20 minutes. And if you fancy witnessing this sight in the UK, popular spots include Gretna Green in Dumfries and Galloway, and Brighton Pier, Sussex.

The science bit: According to the RSPB, starlings gather like clockwork for two main reasons. First: safety in numbers. Predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird amid a spellbinding cloud of thousands. Secondly, to stay warm and exchange information, such as where the best feeding spots are.

Catatumbo Lightning

At the bubbling mouth of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, mighty flashes of lightning illuminate the sky and the waters of Lake Maracaibo below. And this is no ordinary storm. This incessant network of vivid electricity stretches as far as the eye can see, an intricate spider's web of light and power that seems to start in the heavens and cascade vertically, directly into the Earth's core.

The science bit: The phenomenon occurs because of a mass of storm clouds that form a voltage arc more than three miles high. It happens between 140 and 160 nights a year for ten hours, and up to 280 times every hour. The storms (and the resulting lightning) are thought to be the result of the winds blowing across the lake.

Lunar rainbows

The elusive "moonbow" (or lunar rainbow) is a sight that will give couples a real lasting memory. A close relative to the rainbow, it is formed from water droplets - usually from a waterfall - mist and light. But unlike the traditional multicoloured phenomenon, it is crafted by the faint light reflected from the moon and is therefore often rather hard to pin down. The prime spots for a chance sighting include Yosemite Falls in California, Cumberland Falls in Kentucky, Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe and amid the dense cloud forests of Costa Rica. Moonbows are also best viewed when the moon is full or low in the sky.

The science bit: A moonbow is produced by light reflected off the surface of the moon, rather than from direct sunlight, refracting off of moisture in the air. They are relatively faint, so their colours can be hard for the human eye to discern, and are always in the opposite part of the sky from the moon. Image courtesy of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort.

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