The aurora borealis or northern lights are a natural phenomenon that illuminates the sky in a surrealistic way. They are produced by the fall of particles of solar mass against the magnetic layer that protects the Earth from the sun. They can be observed mainly at the poles of the earth. They are not always visible, it depends on solar activity. Here are some tips to optimize your chances of seeing them.
- The best place to see them is near the magnetic poles, that means between 65 and 75 degrees latitude, near the Arctic Circle, for example: Lapland (Lofoten Islands in Norway, Rovaniemi in Finland), Iceland, North of Canada and Alaska. They can also be seen in northern Russia and Greenland, and in the southern hemisphere (southern aurora) although these places are more difficult to access or more expensive. Li>
- It is easier to see them in winter, when it gets dark earlier, usually from September to April (Northern Hemisphere), when the night is long and dark. Li>
- For the observation, you must avoid light pollution from big city or town for instance, street lighting, cars, and also the moon! If you are planning a trip, look at the phase of the moon, what time it goes out to know if it will be above the horizon. Li>
- The sky must be clear, it won’t be visible if it’s cloudy. Li>
- For photographers, a few basic tips (I’m not a great photographer!): Use a tripod and the shooting delay so the camera moves as little as possible, adjust the shutter speed (about 10 seconds depending on the movement of the aurora) and ISO / aperture if necessary. Li>
I went to Iceland in March 2015, and I was lucky enough to see several northern lights. I left from Reykjavík on a tour organized by an agency, “Reykjavik Excursions”, one of the largest TO. They charge about 40 EUR. If you do not see any, you can sign up the next day without paying again. In high season, many buses usually leave at the same time. It’s very touristy, but they take you away from the city, so there is no light pollution. That night, they took us to PN Pingvellir, about 40km from Reykjavik. We spent almost 5 hours in total, stopping in different places for the observation of several aurora borealis from 8pm to 1am in the morning!