We all know that the outdoors are enchanting and beautiful, often mesmerizingly so, but it is a passive beauty, stable and unrelenting. Actively stimulating displays are rare, but when the conditions are just right nature lifts her skirt and puts on a little show. For those in tents, sleeping on the ground, like animals, many of these phenomenon are completely missed. But for hammockers, hanging in the open air like kings and queens, these outdoor visual phenomenon are always visible.
Commonly called the northern lights or aurora borealis, aurora is a confluence of charged particles in high sections of the atmosphere, but how they form is not the point. Aurora is nature’s free acid trip. Neon reds, greens, blues and purples are wiped across the sky, often appearing to wave or shimmer depending on their intensity. Despite it’s common naming, aurora is visible in both the southern and northern hemisphere. You’re more likely to see aurora while camping, because the lack of urban lights will make subtle colors appear more vivid.
A moon, or lunar rainbow, is exactly what it sounds like, a rainbow caused by light from the moon. Regular rainbows are caused by sunlight passing through water particles, which is why they are frequently paired with rainstorms. On misty nights when there is a particularly bright moon, rainbows will form against a backdrop of starry night sky. While often appearing white, moonbows will show up in full color on long exposure photographs.
More rare than a moonbow and better named, a fire rainbow occurs when the sun is very high in the sky and its rays pass through horizontally arranged ice crystals in cirrus clouds. Fire rainbows are always positioned so that red is on top, fading to blues and green. They are more commonly seen in places closer to the equator, where the sun gets relatively higher in the sky.
Shooting stars aren’t rare or especially intense but on the trail, you can see them with greatly increased frequency. Hit an open meadow in the wilderness during a meteor shower and your impression of shooting stars will be forever changed.
Bio-luminescence may not be the most dramatic natural phenomenon, but it is certainly the most fun. Bio-luminescence refers to any natural glow produced by a living organism, like fireflys. But, the best kind of bio-luminescence occurs in water when tiny plankton, called dinoflagellates, glow brightly and briefly when disturbed in the water. Drag your arm through bio-luminescent water and your fingers become pure magic, leaving a glowing, sparkling trail. Bio-luminescent water is common so you should always try it out when near bodies of water at night.