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Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) - What, when and where?

2018-10-2414:38 Simon Fossheim

What is the Northern Lights? 

Northern lights or aurora borealis are brought to life by electrically charged particles from the sun that are drawn towards the magnetic field around the magnetc poles of the earth and collide in the atmosphere. It creates a green, blue or red-pink light over the sky, 80 km out in the atmosphere. This phenomenon can be seen around the "northern light belt"  that circles the poles and cuts across North Norway.

When can you see it? 

Believe it or not, the Northern Lights are active all year round, but it needs to be dark outside to be able to see it. Because of the earths tilt, the summers in the north aren’t that dark. In fact, above the arctic circle the sun stays up 24 hours a day, and darkness is limited. 

 one can say that the "Northern Lights Season" starts in September when the night sky gets darker and until April when you’ll see twilight at midnight. However, even if it is dark outside, there is no guarantee that the Northern Lights will light up the sky. The strength of the Northern Lights is dependent on the sun's activity, sometimes it illuminates the whole sky and sometimes it doesn’t. In other words, it is very unpredictable and patience is key. So, if you really want to see the Northern Lights, we recommend that you take a look at the Northern Lights forecast that is based on the sun's activity. It can only forecast a few days ahead, but it can significantly increase your chances.

Where can you see the Northern lights? 

The short answer is - anywhere above (approximately) 65° north, in a dark location. And the chances increase the closer you get to what is known as the “northern lights belt” (somewhere around 69-70° north). 

However there have been days where the Aurora have been seen south of Oslo. But this is extremely rare.

If you are in Helgeland (or anywhere north of Helgeland) then congratulations, you are geographically in the right place. But to get a glimpse of the magical light, here are what you need to do: 

  • Check the weather forecast!
    It doesn’t matter if you are in the right location, if the sky is cloudy! The northern lights is far up in the atmosphere, and clouds would easily cover up the view. SO if you don’t see the stars you count see the light.
  • Get away from any light pollution.
    You need your eyes to adapt to the dark, and any city lights or any lights at all can interfere. City-lights reflects in the air and can act as a bright haze above and around the city, blocking the view. So get as far away from any city or town
Simon Fossheim
Aurora above Mo i Rana
Aurora above Mo i Rana
Simon Fossheim
Aurora Borealis above Mo i Rana
Aurora Borealis above Mo i Rana
Jan Inge Larsen / Helgeland Photo