The Northern Lights: where and when you can see the dance of flame and light in the sky?
The Northern Lights is one of the most wonderful and mystical phenomena of nature, breathtaking and deeply shocking, especially when you see it first. The residents of the regions located above the Arctic Circle, or close to it, are fortunate to constantly watch the colorful game of nature in the sky.
What are the Northern Lights
Our ancestors were used to explain all strange and mysterious natural phenomena by manifestation of God's grace or wrath. Thus, pagan tribes having observed the phenomenon of the aurora borealis explained it by God’s wrath, warning of impending disaster: hunger, terrible diseases, or a war. Nordic peoples who often saw the northern lights felt more relaxed and explained them just as a reflection of the sun or moon light on the ice or a water surface.
In fact, the nature of the northern lights is this: when the sun perturbations occur (flares and explosions) a solar wind rises, the sun particles at high speed are heading towards the Earth bombarding its magnetosphere what leads to the appearance of the Northern Lights.
The most common colors of the Northern Lights:
- pale-green which is obtained by the collision of oxygen electrons and atoms;
- purple due to the formation of nitrogen in the upper atmosphere;
- red (rarer then others) with nitrogen in the lower layers.
For observation you need a cold weather, clear sky and a new moon. The Northern Lights may occur at an altitude of 90-130 km above the Earth ground.
The Northern Lights in Scandinavia
The best time to see the aurora borealis is October, February and March, although officially the peak seasons are the days of vernal (March 20-21) and autumnal equinox (September 22-23), from 11 pm to 2 am. In especially clean and clear weather borealis can be seen all year round. The frequency of the northern lights appearance depends on the location: near Tromso you can see it every clear night, in the southern parts of Norway – a few times a month, and in some regions of Scandinavia you will be lucky to see this beauty just several times a year.
Where can you see the Northern Lights
The perfect places to watch the Northern Lights are Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. But before you begin looking for a perfect place to observe a spectacular view, remember that it is better to do where the street lights will not interfere with this natural phenomenon: in small towns or even rural areas. In addition, since the Northern Lights usually occur in a polar region of the Scandinavian countries be prepared to the frost and take care for appropriate clothing.
To see the Northern Lights in this country you can take a cruise along the coast, for example, from Tromso to Trondheim. You can also stay in the North Cape, Alta, Hammerfest or Longyearbyen.
In the village of Luakvik in the Lofoten Islands visit the polar center where you will see presentations, have lectures and enjoy photos dedicated to the aurora borealis. If you visit the Pasvik valley in Finnmark, which is not far from the Russian border, you can try skating and dog sledding under the Northern Lights. An expedition to the Svalbard Archipelago in the Arctic Ocean will let you see not only the aurora borealis but also polar bears.
In the northern part of the country the level of air pollution is very low, so you can watch the Northern Lights up to 200 times per year, and the best time to see them are the periods of February-March and September-October months.
Just imagine: night snowmobile safari, horseback riding or skiing in a reindeer sleigh – and this all is under the luxurious sky lit up with bright colors! In Sodankylä Observatory and Northern Lights House you will be offer an excursion and photo exhibitions dedicated to the unique natural phenomenon.
Oulanka National Park is another great place to see the spectacular view in Finland where, in addition to admiring the natural wonders, you can relax in a hotel room and the Finnish sauna.
Usually the aurora borealis in Sweden can be seen all winter up to early April, with the best time from 6 pm to 2 am. In addition, there is an opportunity to observe the colorful natural phenomenon even in September if you choose a holiday at the very north of the country.
Besides enjoying the Northern Lights in Kiruna or Abisko you can go skiing or conquer the highest mountain in Sweden, Kebnekayze. A perfect place to catch the Northern Lights is the Lake Tornetresk over which the part of the sky is always clear regardless of the weather.
Yukkasyarvi and Torne Valleys also deserve your attention. Here you can have lunch staying in a tent in the middle of the ice desert and watch the Northern Lights or stay a little longer in the world-famous ice hotel and take an excursion to the Esrange Space Center.
Elves, trolls and the Northern Lights await you in the Icelandic Wonders Center located in the town of Stokkseyri, 60 km from Reykjavik. Here you will watch an entertaining film about the aurora borealis and will be offered a cocktail of ice from the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull.
Then you can go to the center of ghosts, take a swim in hot volcanic springs and start hunting for the Northern Lights on the island of Grimsey, in Akureyri or Ísafjörður.
Be patient, take warm clothing and a good mood and go looking for the aurora borealis – the result will surpass your wildest expectations!