Spring break is all about getting a tan and partying on the beach. Oh wait, I’m in Iceland. Rephrase: spring break is all about getting to see Northern lights and eat whale. That’s more accurate! Now, about the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. I don’t think I have to go in detail about how they are formed and what exactly they are (In short: charged solar particles interact with atmosphere, atoms get all excited and throw a party in the sky) but all the different conditions you have to get an actual picture (or sighting) still make it a pretty rare phenomenon if you are on a tight time schedule. Here is what you need in order to (a) have a chance at seeing Northern Lights and (b) to actually see them.
- No clouds! Pretty obvious, but cloudless nights could be rare in certain times of the year
- Nights. Summer time in the Arctic leaves you with little to no actual dark nights, so you best go late fall, winter or early spring.
- High latitudes. The higher the better in this case, you’ll want to aim for Arctic circle or higher.
- Increased solar activity: there are numerous tracker sites online as well as forecast. The higher the activity, the more chance of seeing them, and the more chance of getting the cool white and purple colors too!
- No moon. Although you can see them fine when the moon is out, a completely dark sky makes it so much more awesome! And easier for photographing too!
- About 2 boatloads of luck. Even if all the previous conditions are in place, you might still be out of luck. Get repeatedly out there during the night, sometimes they only last a couple of minutes, sometimes they don’t appear at all in the little piece of sky that you can see above you. This is the main factor that controls option (b) to actually see Northern Lights. If you are like me, and so far without any luck, you get to see pretty nights like the picture below. Only thing lacking is a mighty green swirl of Northern Light. To be updated soon hopefully!