I consider myself lucky to live in Northern Finland, as we have Northern lights for over 200 nights a year. The Northern lights, Aurora Borealis, exists throughout the year, but can only be seen during the dark part of the year. This fantastic phenomenon can be seen in Lapland from autumn to spring. Polar Day is the reason why summer is a poor time for Northern light spotting. During the summertime it is light outside around the clock. If you look outside, you literally cannot tell whether it’s 2 AM or 2 PM. The Polar Day and Night, however, set ideal conditions for Northern Light watching in the wintertime, as it is dark for most of the time.
In the most remote places here in Rovaniemi, the starry sky seems to become 3-dimensional and some stars seem to be located further away than others. The sky has to be dark enough for you to be able to see the Aurora with your own eyes, so you should make sure that you are far away enough from the light pollution.
Using online services to predict the Northern lights
I’m following the solar activity online at aurora.fmi.fi This is a service provided by the Finnish Meteorological Institute and it tells me if I have a chance of seeing the northern lights. You can send an aurora alert on your e-mail as well if you give your e-mail address for alerts. I find the webpage so easy to follow that I haven’t done that. I also use an app called My Aurora Forecast. This is a wonderful app for following the solar activity and likelihood of the Aurora Borealis.
Another forecast you should keep an eye on is the cloud weather forecast. The Finnish Meteorological Institute (ilmatieteenlaitos.fi) has a cloud cover map and you can find this useful tool here.
CHOOSING A LOCATION
For the last two weeks the sky has been covered with clouds. Last night we got lucky and had a night with a clear sky – that means northern lights for us here in Rovaniemi! 🙂 I took some photos on our backyard. The next time that I see them I’ll go to a place with less light pollution in order to get better photos. Now I was on a field next to the big road going towards Ivalo.
If you’re interested in capturing these lights in a photo, check out my quick guide to Photographing Northern Lights!