Have you ever been outdoors on a cold winter night? In that case you may have witnessed one of the most magnificent phenomena that nature has to offer: the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, as seen in the northern hemisphere, or the so called Southern Lights, Aurora Australis, in the southern hemisphere. These auroras are also referred to as the Polar Lights. The Northern Lights are seen on dark clear nights from September to April.
Here in Lofoten we live beneath the Auroral Oval. This is a belt of light that encircles the geomagnetic poles, beneath which you have the best chance of seeing the colourful, flickering Northern Lights. They will often start low in the northern sky, moving higher up as the evening progresses.
Another good reason to come to the Lofoten Islands to view the Northern Lights is the temperature here, which is not too low due to the temperate Gulf Stream. If you want to take pictures of the auroras, your camera and batteries are better off when it is not too cold and when there is less snow.
Film: The fantastic Northern Lights!
Aurora is the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn, and Boreas is the Greek name for the north wind.
Here in North Norway the Northern Lights have long been enshrouded by myth and mystery. In the old days, Scandinavian fishermen believed that the Northern Lights were the reflections of large schools of herring in the North Sea. Another Scandinavian superstition would have us believe that the Northern Lights shone with the light of the souls of young women.
And even up until more recent times, children were told not to wave at the lights with a white handkerchief or they would be snatched by them, something which then of course became a very exciting thing to do.
Movie northern lights in Laukvik, Lofoten, Norway from Therese van Nieuwenhoven on Vimeo.
The Sun-Earth Connection
The sun emits a constant stream of electrons and protons, the so-called solar wind which blows continuously towards the Earth and out into space. These solar wind particles enter the Earth's upper atmosphere at the auroral zone, creating the auroras. The particles take two to four days to travel from the Sun to the Earth.
The Sun's activity follows an 11 year cycle. When, as now, solar activity is at a minimum, the Northern Lights can only be seen on our latitude.
The Northern Lights Experience
If you come to the Lofoten Islands for a Northern Lights experience, and you want to maximize your chances of seeing them, then you should visit the Polarlight Centre Lofoten in Laukvik. The Centre offers a colourful one-hour visual presentation of the phenomenon, and you can ask anything you want to know about it. Special instruments there, like a magnetometer, show magnetic activity on a monitor, so you can go outside and see the Northern Lights at the right moment. Unique service: After you have visited the Polarlight Centre, you can get a Northern Lights SMS-alert during your stay in Lofoten.
All photos: Polarlightcenter, Laukvik in Lofoten
Read more about the Northern Lights also at: Nordlyssenteret/Andøya Rocket Range