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Seeing an aurora borealis in Norway or in another Nordic country is an unforgettable experience that should be done at least once in a lifetime. But to avoid disappointment, you need to know when and where to go to searching for it. So let’s see… where to see the most beautiful Northern Lights in Norway.
What is an aurora borealis?
The aurora borealis is a breathtaking light show in the Earth’s sky. It is caused by collisions between gases such as oxygen and nitrogen and electrically charged particles released by the sun when they enter the atmosphere.
The lights are therefore visible around the northern and southern poles. Auroras that occur in the northern hemisphere are called “auroras borealis”, and those that occur in the southern hemisphere “auroras australis” or “southern lights”. That was your fun fact of the day.
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The best places to see the Northern Lights in Norway
In Norway, there are plenty of places where you can spot northern lights. Obviously, you will have to go very far north, in an area that extends from the North Cape to the Lofoten Islands. Check out the map of the best go-to places provided by the Visit Norway website.
Whatever spot you choose, it is likely that your journey will start in the city of Tromso, the largest city in the north of the country, considered as the “gateway to the Arctic”.
There are many tours departing from Tromso: you can spend a night stargazing in a tent, or go on a photo tour like a pro, to keep a memory of these magical moments.
If you want something more exclusive away from Tromso, go a little further east, to the tip of Norway, in the county of Finnmark (or Norwegian Lapland). An ideal place to admire the northern lights is located in the settlement of the indigenous Sami people (also found in northern Sweden and Finland).
Best time to see the Northern Lights in Norway
The best time to go searching for the Northern Lights is between September 21 and March 21. However, don’t forget that if you go north in December-January, you will also witness the polar nights when the sun does not rise even during the day. This is an experience in itself, but you have to be prepared. Although the night is also long in October or March, going to Norway during these months would allow you to enjoy different activities during the day.
However, do note that there is no guarantee that you will be able to catch the Northern Lights during your trip. To improve your chances, check out the weather forecast (because the sky needs to be clear for your to see the Northern Lights) as well as the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Northern Lights forecast map.
How long does an aurora borealis last?
This is a question often asked by people visiting northern Norway. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to that question. In fact, an aurora borealis can be very brief, or it can last for hours. There can also be several northern lights up in the sky at the same time. There is no rule.
But is it possible to know at what time they will appear? Not really, no. But you have to admit that this mystery adds to the magic of the moment. There are nevertheless some forecasting tools (a bit like for the weather) that exist around the world. For example, check out the University of Alaska’s website dedicated to aurora borealis. It shares the data regarding the magnetic activity around the globe – including in the north of Europe – helping you assess your probability of catching the aurora borealis.
How to take a good picture of an aurora borealis?
With such beautiful and vivid colors sprayed all over across the sky, you are probably telling yourself that all you have to do is point your lens upwards and press the button to get a nice shot. You will quickly see that taking a picture of an aurora borealis is not easy at all. There are several things you need to take into account once you’re at it:
- Take a tripod. The northern lights are in constant motion, and at night, you will need stability to ensure that your photos are sharp.
- Take a spare battery or two. The cold will drain your batteries quickly, so equip yourself accordingly, especially if you have a hybrid camera.
- Turn up the ISO, but not too much. If you have a camera that allows some manual configuration, you’re going to have to turn up the ISO a bit. But depending on your camera, if you overdo it, the image can get noisy and very pixelated.
- Adjust the shutter speed. The speed of the aurora borealis is very variable. You will probably have to test several configurations before you find the right shutter speed (the time of entry of light to the sensor).
- Remember to have enough storage. Being well equipped with memory cards can be wise, especially if you want to do some editing on your photos taken in RAW format later.
That’s it, we hope our tips will help you plan your northern lights expedition. Don’t hesitate to leave your feedback in the comment section.