Northern Lights – ideal conditions – how, where and when to see the lights

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If you’ve done even a minimum amount of research on the web about the Northern Lights, then you will already know what the ideal conditions are for seeing this amazing phenomenon.

1. Location: On and around the Arctic Circle (   66 degrees latitude) not too far below and not too far above the circle. That means most of Alaska, Tromso in Norway, Kiruna in Sweden, Inari in Finland, Iceland and Murmansk in Russia, as well as other locations on the Arctic Circle. The reason being  

2. Time of year: Winter, which means from September to late February, but March and September are thought to be best as the earth’s orbit is in a zone of maximum solar activity during these months. Also winter brings with it clear dark skies. OF these months statistically January has the least showings. Also during the winter in these areas the nights are longer, so there is more chance of seeing the lights.

3. Time of day: At night, because of it being the dark.

4. Moon cycle: It is best if there is not a full moon, as the light from the moon detracts from the Aurora show.

5. Sky conditions: Ideally you need a cloud free, dark night.

6. Activity of the sun: It can be predicted to some extent by scientists as they study when there are likely to be particles expelled from the sun, which then interact with the earth’s geomagnetic field. The geomagnetic field being strongest at the two earth’s poles.

7. No artificial city light: You need to get away from the street lights and neon signs, somewhere in the country or out to sea perhaps, otherwise the artificial light detracts from the show.

Now the thing that is not mentioned in all the Aurora sites is that sitting around watching a black sky gets boring after a while. So I suggest keeping active while you wait for the lights to show up.

There are many activities on offer to tourists which are both amazing experiences in themselves and give you the opportunity to get out of the city and watch for lights. There are of course also special tours specifically made for searching for the lights. You can do husky dog sledding; Arctic horse riding; cross country ski lessons; snowmobile excursions or boat trips.

It is worth the wait in the cold to see this amazing natural phenomenon, and being unpredictable is all the more exciting once you see it.


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