Aurora Borealis –The Northern Lights
Auroras are a phenomenon of light – colourful, dancing and changing shapes in the sky. They come from the sun, as the solar wind carries the particles and they react with the magnetic field of earth.
Mainly you can experience these amazing lights close to the polar circles. Finnish Lapland is a popular place to visit to see the Northern lights. It’s possible to see those dancing lights from the end of August until to the beginning of April, but the best chance to see them is when it’s getting dark evenings in fall or when the spring is slowly rising after dark winter and ”kaamos”. You can see the amazing Northern lights during the whole winter for sure but it also requires that the weather is clear (some local people say that when it’s -8 degrees and crescent moon, it’s a best opportunity to experience the magic of the Auroras).
Beliefs about Aurora
There are also some beliefs about the Auroras. For example some Sámi-people have believed Auroras are blood from the people who have died for open wounds and are still bleeding in the land of the deceased. They didn’t think that it was a sign for suffering or bad circumstances though. Some Sámi-people also believed that the Auroras are born because the fox is swinging its tail on a snow blanket in fells and that way creates sparks to the sky. In mythology of Scandinavia, Auroras were believed coming from the armour of the Valkyries when they rode under the Nordic sky at night.
Aurora hunting Preparation
To see the Northern lights you have to be patient. Sometimes the colourful lights are showing only for a couple of minutes, so it means being on call outside and waiting to see the magic happen. It might be a good idea to plan some other experience, like renting a snow shoes or taking a reindeer sleigh ride beside and hope for the best. In Lapland there are also tours for hunting the Auroras. You can book aurora tours directly from our website. Please don’t forget the warm clothes!
Planning of Aurora hunting
The most important part of aurora hunting is the preparation. First looking for dark sky and also finding a clear sky is essential. Thanks to Lapland’s mother nature where you can find the dark sky very easily anywhere in the northern area or in the arctic circle. Another factor is the clear sky which is crucial for aurora hunting. According to the experts, about 10 percent of cloudy sky is not a problem for aurora. Sometime aurora can be visible at the same time when clouds are moving. But in ideal situation it is very important to have a clear sky. That’s why its hard to predict to see the time of aurora as it depends on weather as well.
It is very important to follow the forecast of aurora from authentic sources. Aurora forecast changes due to the magnetic pole movements in the solar system. The long-term aurora forecast is available for about one month. The space weather prediction centre or NOAA website has a lot of resources from where its possible to know more about the aurora activity and forecast. The aurora activity can be figured out according tot he Kp Index which is usually from 0-9. Kp index 9 means very strong aurora activity and 0 is the lowest chance to see the aurora. The long term aurora activity can be checked from Space Weather website. Space Weather Live aurora forecast and solar activity provides the current movements of aurora and also several days outlooks can be checked from there.
Aurora Alert App:
To see the magical aurora is a dream for many of us. Many people travels to the arctic north to fulfill their dream to see the aurora or the northern lights in own eyes. It can be very easy to hunt the aurora with a mobile app. The aurora alert app will notify instantly if its visible in your place. There are some apps which you could download to get the aurora alerts. One of the local and effective aurora app is Northern Lights alerts. Follow this link ( Visit Lapland partners affiliate code) and you can download it to get the instant aurora alert in your phone.
Aurora photography needs proper preparation. To capture the magical moments and wonderful pictures it is essential to have a good camera and also a sturdy tripod. It is recommended to have a DSLR camera and full frame lens for capturing beautiful images of northern lights. The camera need to have manual mode and the tripod need to be strong enough. Night photography or long exposures usually needs good tripods because any slight movement of camera can destroy the image. It is also wise to take few extra batteries as the battery could drain fast due to cold weather. Focusing in the darkness is also a challenge so its recommended to fix focus earlier day time and experiment it few times. If the aurora is strong and moving quite fast then 4-5 seconds of exposure with 800-1000 ISO would be good. However the exposure time can be changed according to the movements but ISO is better to keep lower. Because more big ISO more noisy the image.
How aurora looks like
I have seen quite many Northern lights in Lapland and I think even the smallest ones with one colour (usually green) are something special. Some of my friends who have lived their whole life in the north told me, that they don’t mind so much about the small lights as they have seen those quite many times during their life. But the really colourful, big, incredible ones are something that even the local people admire. They might stop their cars side to road and look up to see an amazing show in the sky.
Experiencing the Magic
Last winter in Luosto, I had a client who came to visit Lapland with his daughter only to see the Northern lights as it had been his life-long dream – and now he was already 80-years-old. They had booked an evening safari in a hope to experience the Northern lights from sitting in a sleigh pulled by reindeers. When we first started the safari, it looked quite bad and the sky was full of clouds. One hour we rode to this small wooden cottage where we enjoyed traditional Finnish sausages, hot drinks and I told some stories about the reindeers and Lapland.
Once we started our way back, there wasn’t that much clouds anymore. We sat peacefully in our sleighs and got in the middle of this ”jänkä” or swamp, and then it happened. Suddenly the whole sky was full of the most amazing shapes and colours of green, purple and red. They danced in the sky for many minutes and we got the privilege to enjoy this show. Those were the most spectacular Northern lights I had ever seen, and you can try to imagine how happy the man with his daughter was after seeing this magical show.
Should you experience the magic of the Northern lights and create the beliefs by yourself? Just come to Visit Lapland.
By Jenna Käppi/ Visit Lapland