NORTHERN LIGHTS – WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT THE AURORAS?
Apukka Resort, located in the city of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland
is the perfect venue for witnessing the Northern Lights!
Imagine yourself in the middle of an unspoilt winter wonderland. It’s close to midnight, but the landscape covered in thick white snow is glistening in moonlight. You are way, way up north. Almost precisely on the Arctic Circle, a long way from all the hustle and hurry. Millions of stars are perfectly visible from the lake, where you have a clear view all around you. The sled comes to a halt, and your guide points out towards the North where a pale glow is gathering above the horizon. As you step on the ice, the first bands begin reaching across the night sky. Shimmering. Flickering. In the shades of green and red, just like that a bright corona explodes above you, covering the entire sky with light. This is what magic must look like.
WHERE DOES THE NAME AURORA BOREALIS COME FROM?
The Auroras in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere are called the Aurora Borealis. Their southern counterpart, lighting up the Antarctic skies in the Southern Hemisphere, are known as the Aurora Australis. The name Aurora Borealis, which was conceived by astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1616 after the Roman goddess of the dawn and the Greek word for the North wind, refers to the lights in the Northern Hemisphere.
WHAT CAUSES THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
When magnetic fields on the sun get twisted together, they create sunspots, and particles escaping from these sunspot regions create something called solar wind that stream away from the sun at speeds of about 1,6 million kilometers per hour. After traveling 150 million kilometres to the Earth, the solar wind is lured by the magnetic North and South Poles. Around the Poles the magnetic fields are weaker, allowing the electrons to enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere whre they’ll encounter atoms of oxygen and nitrogen at altitudes from 50 to 300 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.
WHAT MAKES THE NORTHERN LIGHTS APPEAR IN DIFFERENT COLOURS?
A shade of greenish-yellow, the most common color visible during one of these light shows, is caused by solar particles colliding with oxygen in lower altitudes—up to 240 kilometers above us. A collision with oxygen at very high altitudes, over 280 kilometers above the Earth, produces much rarer shades of red. A pinkish-red at the lower edges of the sheets of light is common, created by collisions with nitrogen particles.
ARE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS EQUALLY ACTIVE EACH YEAR?
The sunspots and solar storms that cause the most magnificent displays of the Northern Lights occur roughly every 11 years. The solar cycle peaked in 2013, but it was the weakest solar maximum in a century. Since record-keeping of the ebb and flow of the sun’s activity began in 1749, there have been 22 full cycles.
WHAT TIME OF THE YEAR CAN THE NORTHERN LIGHTS BE SEEN IN LAPLAND?
The Northern Lights can never compete with the light of the sun, and therefore they can’t be seen in Rovaniemi during the light nights of the summer months. But in September, when the dusk is escorted by darkness again, the friendly glow of the Auroras can be seen on the nigh skies again. From September to April, the Northern Lights light up the skies on average every third night.
IN WHICH CORNERS OF THE WORLD IS IT POSSIBLE TO WITNESS THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
The best places to see the Northern Lights are in remote locations—far from cities and their light pollution— on cloudless and moonless winter nights. The closer to the Poles you are, the better chances of catching this curtain or ever-changing colours on the sky you have – making Finland one of the top locations to cross the Northern Lights from your bucket list. Rovaniemi, located in the northern parts of Finland, is a prime location to witness the Northern Lights on the night skies. Apukka Resort, located 18 kilometres from Rovaniemi city centre, maximizes your chances as we are located on the very edge of the wilderness where there’s no light pollution to block the view to the skies.
WHAT KIND OF EQUIPMENT DO I NEED TO BE ABLE TO TAKE PHOTOS OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
You can get photos of the Auroras with most cameras, though naturally the quality of the photos increases remarkable with a good quality camera. Most of the phones do not take good photos of the Northern Lights, especially if they are dim. Having a tripod to hold your camera still increases the quality of the photos – in case you do not own a tripod, we do have some for rent by the front desk. Our staff will be happy to help you with the camera settings best suited for capturing the magical Auroras, just ask for help from our front desk, If you are worried about not having good enough camera equipment to get Aurora photos, you can always book a spot from our Aurora Hunt by Car excursion – there the guide will carry a good quality camera with him/her and give you access to all the Northern Light photos they get during the night if the Auroras would do their dance on the night skies.
ARE THERE WAYS TO MAXIMIZE MY POSSIBILITIES OF SEEING THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
Finding the Northern Lights always comes down to patience as you can never fully predict when they’ll appear. Wrap yourself inside warm layers of clothing, find a dark spot on the frozen lake and simply wait. If you’re not too tempted by waiting in the cold, you can always book accommodation in Aurora Cabin or Komsio Suite and gaze at the night skies from the comfort of your bed. Or join one of our Northern Light activities and let the bonfire and stories from the past keep you warm as you’re waiting for the Auroras.
To give you the very best possibilities for being able to cross the Northern Lights off from your bucket list, we’ve created a variety of activities to maximize your chances of seeing the Auroras. On a cloudy night, Aurora Hunt by Car excursion gives you a chance to cover longer distances to find clear skies. When the cloud cover is not too thick, our Snowtrains, huskies and snowmobiles can take you to some really special places in the midst of the dark, almost magical forests for witnessing this unique and mythical phenomenon. It’s also good to remember that in Lapland the weather can change in a heartbeat, turning a cloudy sky into a stunning scenery filled with thousands and thousands of stars.
Have a look at our Northern Light Adventures