There are two types of Northern Lights in the world. The kind that are on every free spirit’s bucket list, and the ones they put on in Blackpool every year. No shade on the northern seaside town but I think we can all agree, right here right now, that recounting the time you went on an Arctic Circle adventure is a better story for the pub than telling people that you went to that place where they sometimes film Strictly.
With that in mind, here are the answers to some common questions about the Aurora Borealis, and some slightly more adventurous ways you might be able to catch a glimpse, whilst on a Northern Lights holiday.
Where can see you the Northern Lights?
The best way to see the Northern Lights, it goes without saying that you’re best off heading north. Places like Alaska, Northern Canada, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Russia, Sweden and Greenland… that’s where you want to be. Popular Northern Lights destinations in Europe, and they’re popular for a reason, include Tromsø in Norway and Finnish Lapland.
When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
You can observe the Northern Lights anytime between late August and mid-April, although your best chance is in the window of opportunity between late September and late March. If you want to get right down into specifics, due to the nature of equinox you’re absolute best bet for seeing them are in the months of March and September. From mid-April until mid-August, the long days of summer means your chances of seeing the Northern Lights are slim to zero.
Why do the Northern Lights appear?
Get your science hat on because we’re about to get all scientific up in here. The Northern Lights appear because charged particles from the sun hit atoms in Earth’s atmosphere. This, in turn, causes electrons in the atoms to move to a higher-energy state (they get hyper, basically). Upon returning to a lower energy state, they then release a photon. This process is what causes the aurora borealis (aka the Northern Lights). Class dismissed.
Are the Northern Lights always green?
Contrary to what the Instagram influencers would have you believe, the Northern Lights aren’t always green. The iconic green is the most common colour observed, as our eyes can most easily observe the green-yellow part of the sunlight’s spectrum, but the natural phenomenon can also appear white-grey.
How to photograph the Northern Lights?
Glad you asked. Much better to go in knowing than potentially miss the shot of a lifetime because you’re having to frantically Google the answers in the Arctic Circle while simultaneously playing about with your camera settings. Our recommendation is to set your ISO between 800 and 3200, and your aperture between f/2.8 and f/5.6. You’ll also want your shutter speed running super slow, between 15 and 30 seconds.
Is seeing the Northern Lights guaranteed?
The Northern Lights are extremely unpredictable. They’re like that unreliable friend of yours. The one who’s absolutely incredible on a night out, the best company you could hope for, but who’s flakier than a multi-pack of Cadbury’s Flake. When it comes to the Northern Lights, you can go at the right time of year, on the right kind of night, use an intelligent Aurora Forecast app that’ll predict activity level, and be with an expert guide. All that, and it won’t matter a jot if the Lights are in a temperamental mood. Our policy is to go for the destination and treat the spectacle as the ultimate cherry on the cake.
How close to Earth are the Northern Lights?
Looking at pictures of the Northern Lights, it can seem like they’re… right there. Like they’re shooting out from the top of mountains, or something. In reality though, the closest they ever come to Earth is about 80 km above the Earth’s surface. As a point of comparison, planes fly about 10 km above the surface. The colour of the Lights varies depending on how far above the Earth’s surface they’re occurring. Green occurs 100 km to 240 km off Earth, blue and violets – below 100 km, and reds – above 240 km.
How much does it cost to see the Northern Lights?
Of course, that question has multiple answers. Already touched upon this, but there are many places in the North you can go to see the Northern Lights. Depending on where you go, it can cost you hundreds of pounds or it can cost you thousands of pound. Obviously, the price you pay will be dependent not only on the destination but also on the activities you choose to undertake while there as well as simply the duration of the trip.
Why see the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights get a lot of hype. So much hype that you might be wondering if they’re like that film which won like 200 Academy Awards and that you still haven’t got round to seeing yet. Well, fear not. They’re good. They’re really, really, good.
Should I go and see the Northern Lights?
You already know the answer to that.
Give yourself the best chance of experiencing the Aurora and get out on a Northern Lights adventure this winter with only best local guides and hosts.