Where to go to see the Aurora

I dream to see the ethereal spectacle of the Northern lights? We have compiled a guide to help you realize the dream. What is the Aurora

Encyclopedia dryly explains that the Aurora is the glow of the upper rarefied layers of the atmosphere caused by the interaction of atoms and molecules with charged particles of high energy, invades the earth's atmosphere from space. Human language is very simplistic and this means that the Sun throws out into space millions of tons of particles after 2-5 days they reach the upper atmosphere of the Earth, where nitrogen and oxygen are so glad to see that already shone with excitement.

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Luminescence occurring near the magnetic poles of the Earth. Fortunately, the magnetic poles do not coincide with geographical, so to observe the lights, we can at latitudes of about 67 to 70°, and sometimes much closer to the equator, up to Moscow and Tver.

The poles of the Earth two, therefore, of the Aurora, there are two — North and South. To see the southern lights is problematic — just because habitable places at the right latitudes of the southern hemisphere not so much. But in the Northern hemisphere there are lots of corners where you can see the Aurora. And to see it, don't even need to leave Russia.

How to see the Aurora

First the bad news: to catch the Northern lights is difficult — too many circumstances should work out successfully. So be mentally prepared to be rolled on the North in vain. Good news: if you follow the simple tips, you can greatly increase your chances.

When is the Aurora

The season of the Aurora is the period from autumn through the spring equinox, that is from September to March. This does not mean that the sky is illuminated only during those months, radiance may happen in August. But the probability is still higher in winter, from about November to February. At the same time in high latitudes at this time of night lasts for 18-20 hours, and even a faint glow will be seen more clearly. Professionals say that the best time of day for observations from about 10 PM to 3 am.

How to increase your chances of seeing the Northern lights

One. Watch out for solar flares

The main condition for the Aurora — release of particles on the Sun. After this release you will have from two to five days to reach the desired latitude. Of course, the more powerful the output, the greater the chance that the lights will do. For space weather watches, many observatories around the world, here are the sites of some of them:


  • Institute of terrestrial magnetism, ionosphere and radio wave propagation RAS, Russia
  • The geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska, USA
  • The Finnish meteorological Institute
  • University Of Lancaster, UK
  • The center forecasts space weather, USA
At each site monitor the magnetic activity index (K-index). Its values vary from 1 to 9 where the unit — all is quiet, nine — electronics fails. Noticed that the K-index reached values of 4-5 and above — pack your bags and set off for the North. To follow the predictions of the Aurora conveniently through the application of PSDC USA for iOS and Android.

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2.Stay away from cities

Electric lights of cities create light pollution, so with them the night sky less contrast, and the Aurora is visible much worse, or not visible at all. The larger the city, the more light noise and the farther from him you need to move. From a small village stop and 5 to 10 km, from city is not less than 50-70 km.

3.Wait for clear weather

Auroras glow at an altitude of over 100 km the Cloud is always lower, then there will be between you and the lights and close the review. In winter, the more chances of clear skies on frosty days and in the moments of cooling.

4.Climb away to the North

The closer you are to the Arctic circle (or even go further North), the more chances to see the glow. Although, it depends on the size K of the index: if it rolls up to 8-9 points, you can just look out the window, even if you live in Sochi.

What to bring:

-car (own or rented) the Car really help out in the hunt for the Northern lights, and not so much because you can quickly escape from the zone of light pollution in the city and choose a convenient observation platform. The main advantage of the machine — it is possible to bask.

-full tank of gas and maybe a couple of canisters to run to bask in the car, it makes sense not to turn off and sink constantly.

-a thermos of tea. The cold alcohol warms to short "distances", but on a long — harm. Therefore alcohol is better stored for return to the heat.

-warm shoes of Course, you will not forget to dress warmly. But pay special attention to shoes, because need a long time to stand on snow or frozen ground.

-a tripod is absolutely necessary if you want to achieve quality photos.

-spare batteries For the cold batteries, and the batteries run down very quickly. Make sure that you have spare and light, and for a phone and for the camera. Keep them either in the car or in the inner pockets of clothing.

-a good camera to Photograph the Aurora on camera is theoretically possible, but difficult and happens only in bright lights. Therefore, if you want to capture the spectacle and take friends for an SLR camera or at least a "mirrorless". Advance practice to remove on long exposures.


Where to go to see the Aurora

In Russia, at first glance, almost boundless opportunities to see the Northern lights. Still, the Arctic circle crosses half the country, and the Grand celestial show can be seen in Karelia and Chukotka. But in the winter in many places difficult to reach, and the temperature in some places can drop to -45 C°. In addition, flights to remote parts of Russia can be incredibly expensive. Therefore, from Moscow and St. Petersburg to go on the hunt for the Northern lights in Murmansk or Arkhangelsk region. It is more convenient and cheaper, and winter weather in these parts is not so sharp as, say, on the Taimyr Peninsula.

1. Murmansk, Russia

In the Murmansk region note Teriberka, Vidyaevo, Polar, or Pecheneg, by and large, any other town with little light pollution. Most importantly, make sure that in the winter they can drive the car. To get to Murmansk and back on the plane for 7-8 thousand rubles.

2. Khibiny, Russia

The Khibiny mountains are located South of Murmansk, but on hills more chances of clear skies and light pollution in these parts you can forget. Infrastructure, unfortunately, is not well developed, and many hotels either closed for the winter, or very difficult to access. Good by local standards recreation "Kuelporr" promises in the winter transfer from Kirovsk on snowmobiles.

3. Arkhangelsk, Russia

In principle, the Northern lights is seen in the Archangel. But in the context of auroral latitude, he loses much the same Murmansk, Arkhangelsk therefore it is better to make a base for travel, and for the Northern lights to go farther to the North of the region. The round-trip to Arkhangelsk will cost about 6 200 — 7 300 rubles.

4. Vorkuta, Russia

In the Komi Republic, the Northern lights are not uncommon, sometimes it can be seen even in Syktyvkar in August. But to increase your chances, better to go further North, to Vorkuta. Be very careful if for the first time sit behind the wheel in winter in the North. In the twilight of winter merges with the vast snow-covered road, and it's easy to get off the road, stuck in the snow on the roof. Flights to Vorkuta may be cheaper if you own docked two flights in Syktyvkar.

5. Khatanga, Russia

The village Khatanga — a choice for those looking for a Northern lights adventure. This is the heart of the Peninsula, the annual average temperature here is -13 C°. But this is one of the northernmost towns of Russia, and in latitude it is much more advantageous (from the point of view of the Aurora) and Murmansk, and even Iceland. In Khatanga planes fly "KrasAvia" from Krasnoyarsk.

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6. Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

Longyearbyen, the "capital" of the Norwegian Svalbard located at 78 degrees North latitude is closer to the North pole you can get only in the Arctic expedition. Flights to Svalbard is adjusted perfectly, but all the flights from Russia are performed with two changes and are a lot — from 30 000 rubles. On the flight you can save up to 10 000, if join flights on their own: for example, a ticket from Moscow to Oslo is 7-10 thousand, from Oslo to Longyearbyen is 11-13 thousand.

7. Tromsø and Alta, Norway

In continental Norway, the title of the capital of the Aurora Borealis immediately claimed by two cities, Alta and tromsø. In tromsø better developed tourist infrastructure, but the Algiers located at the 70th parallel, and is in itself a good tourist "tick". From Russia flight to Algiers is from 18 000 in tromsø — from 12 000.

8. Abisko, Sweden

Swedish center Aurora Sky Station in Abisko town modestly calls itself "the best place on the planet to observe the Northern lights". The statement is bold, but rightly so: the center is located at the 68th parallel, in the middle of a national Park, away from the light pollution of large cities, and even at an altitude of almost 1 km above sea level. At the Aurora Sky Station has its own hotel, but it would be cheaper to settle the capital of Swedish Lapland — Kiruna — hour drive from Abisko. Flights from Russia to Kiruna and back will cost at least 17-18 thousand rubles.

9. Akureyri, Iceland

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If you want to see the Aurora, avoiding severe frosts, — look at Iceland. Thanks to the Gulf stream the climate here is fairly mild in winter in Reykjavik, the temperature rarely drops below zero. Above all the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis in the sky of Iceland — in the North, where less rain falls, for example, in Akureyri, which is considered the driest city in the country. But the most spectacular pictures of the Northern lights out in the glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón in the South East.

Incredible nature is a huge advantage of Iceland to other places for observation of the Aurora. At least because the Icelandic waterfalls and geysers, hot springs and glaciers will be a great comfort if you happen to catch the Northern lights.

10. Ivalo, Finland

In Finland it is best to watch the Northern lights in Ivalo. This small village on how thousands of people are very popular among Finnish tourists, and if rooms available in hotels in Ivalo will not appear, you can settle in the neighboring town of saariselkä. And 40 km South of Ivalo is a unique Arctic resort Kakslauttanen with a needle with transparent roofs instead of the usual houses.

This may be the only place on earth where you can fall asleep in a warm bed, looking at the flashes of the Northern lights. From Russia to Ivalo, you can fly directly, but the flights will cost about 10% cheaper if to join two flights with a stopover in Helsinki.published 

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