What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that can paint the night sky with unearthly, surreal color. At their best the Northern Lights shine blue and red and green as a changing veil.
According to a legend, the Northern Lights appear as a fox runs across the fells and lights up the sky with sparks flying from its tail whirling up the snow. The modern Finnish term “revontulet”, the fox’s fires, derives from this myth.
However, a scientist’s explanation to the phenomenon would be something like “the solar wind sends charged particles towards the Earth, and upon colliding with its atmosphere they produce energy given off as light".
Is it possible to predict the occurrence of Northern Lights?
There are two kind of Northern Lights predictions: statistical and real-time ones. The former are based on a large amount of observations of Northern Lights at different latitudes during several years. From these statistics it is possible to predict the probability of the occurrence of Northern Lights during the course of year.
The latter predictions are based on a space-weather monitoring system either by ground-based devices or satellites watching the space-weather conditions around the Earth. When the monitoring devices show certain deviations from the normal situation, one can expect that a space weather storm is approaching in a few hours.
AurorasNow! is a space weather service maintained by Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) to help watching auroras in Finland. The service includes auroral monitoring with the all-sky cameras and magnetic field alarm systems for Northern and Southern Finland separately.
In the longer term, auroral displays are correlated with an 11-year cycle in sunspot activity and other perturbations of the sun; the more restless the sun, the more aurorae. During periods of solar maximum the Northern Lights can be seen far below the Arctic Circle and as far as Central Europe.
Where do Northern Lights mostly occur?
The occurrence of auroras depends on the latitude of the observer. The Northern Finland belongs to the maximum auroral zone. In Lapland, the number of auroral displays can be as high as 200 a year. In southern Finland the number is usually fewer than 20.
Seeing the Northern Lights requires sufficient darkness and clear sky. The best months are February-March and September-October. During summer months Northern Lights can't be seen due to light nights. The best time to see auroras is between 10 pm-2 am. The display might last 20 seconds or go on for hours.
Can I see Northern Lights during an Upitrek tour?
All of Upitrek winter tours are suitable for Northern Lights spotting. All the tours take place in the wilderness where artificial light pollution will not interfere. If Northern Lights appear on the sky it is easy to observe them from any of the accommodations we stay on our tours – just step outdoors and enjoy! No extra fees!
But when dreaming about seeing the Northern Lights, you must remember that you are at the complete mercy of nature. Even with today’s technical equipment, the Northern Lights’ appearance can never be forecast with certainty. You may see them or you may see not – the nature decides!
Sources: www.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi, www.visitfinland.com, www.wikipedia.org, www.arcticcircle-information.fi
The Amazing Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) - Finland.
Film by Visit Finland.