Chasing the Northern Lights

First off. Most people (if not all) would have the Northern Lights on their bucket list. I can assure you that you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t. It is definitely a phenomenon that will take your breath away and is something everyone would love to see at least once in his or her lifetime.When I moved to Stavanger (Norway), I never really imagined that I’d be able to see it here since it’s quite far south and have never heard of people witnessing it here. Had considered venturing up north to my cousins in Bodø to view it.
From my research, these lights are created when the electrically charged particles from the Sun’s solar wind collide with the Earth’s geomagnetic field and depending on the KP rating (a geomagnetic activity scale from 0 – 9), you have the potential of seeing it in different parts of the world. To see it in Stavanger, I would need a rating of more than 4 (better yet a 5 – G1 storm) AKA I would need to be extremely fortunate. Please excuse me while I have a nerd out moment.

Here’s the story of how I saw my first lights:
One evening back in January, a mate’s photo came up on my Facebook feed with a sign of the lights. After much debating, I grabbed my camera, bolted out the door and headed to an area near my house. Fast forward about 5 minutes, I managed to find a spot to set up my camera, facing north. I noticed something a little out of the ordinary in the sky. Didn’t think much of it, just assumed I was hallucinating because I really wanted to see the lights. Took a test shot with my camera and… BAM! It was the aurora lights. Super stoked and feeling extremely lucky.

As the northern light-chasing season comes to a close, I thought I should reflect what I’ve learnt from my experience. I’m by no means an expert but having had the privilege to see them, maybe what I’ve cultivated can help you too on your journey next season. That said, here’s some of my advice.

  • Hope for it, don’t expect it.
    What I think is extremely important is that you DON’T have any expectations that you WILL see it. Nothing is a guarantee, especially when it comes to nature so don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Hope luck is on your side and the conditions are right. Fingers crossed!
  • Get as far north as you possibly can.
    People usually travel to Lapland (Finland), Tromsø (Norway) or (the hot new destination I’ve been noticing) Iceland to see these famous lights. If you’re like me and can’t afford to travel to all these beautiful places, try a really dark spot, facing North.
  • Follow social media groups’.
    There are so many groups set up specifically around a certain goal, this case: chasing the northern lights. What better way to increase your chances than to join a group! I managed to find a group in my region and they consistently post updates of the KP rating and where it’s visible – honestly I’m so stoked I found such a group, they really helped heaps. Would have missed out if it weren’t for them!
  • Dress warmly.
    The last time you would want to happen is if you went out of your way to see the lights but you’re freezing you’re bum off and not enjoying the full experience… or even worse, you had to bail! You can be sat for hours waiting for a glimpse of the lights, so stock up on heaps of clothes/blankets and some hot cocoa.
  • Go during the season.
    The season is usually some time between September to mid April. Most people go during the dead of winter, braving the freezing temperatures, which from what I understand is the best time. Sadly, it’ll be close to impossible to see the lights outside of these months because of the long days and the sun barely sets.
  • Watch the weather forecast.
    Last thing you would want to do is stay up until some ridiculous hour and end up with total cloud coverage. Of course the weather forecast is not a hundred percent accurate or reliable, but it’s a good gauge, especially if you look at a couple of sites.
  • Check aurora-forecasting sites.
    This is the most powerful tool in your tool box that you can have. It’s also a good idea to find out when the KP ratings are the strongest or if the aurora is peaking. I’ve downloaded some apps on my iPhone and follow a couple of websites. Like most things, the forecasts are completely accurate but it does give you a rough idea whether or not you’ll be getting any sleep that night.
    The ones I use are: Aurora Service, Norway Lights, Aurorasaurus, Northern Eye Aurora Forecast.

Anyways, enough chit-chat. Here are a couple of photos I’ve taken this season. Always gives me a warm feeling every time I look at them.

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Happy hunting!

Peace, love and good vibes.

7 Comment

  1. Awesome article!, great pics.

    1. The Travelling Sloth says: Reply

      Cheers Camilo. Let’s go Northern Light hunting next season!

  2. Ahhh this is one of my biggest dreams in life. I hope I get to see it soon!

    1. The Travelling Sloth says: Reply

      I wish you the best of luck for when you decide to head out next season! 🙂

  3. Oh my God! This is so one of the things on my bucket list!! Are the photos yours? They are awesome! I’m just amazed by this post!
    Thank you for sharing this precious information!
    Love from Portugal,
    Joana

    1. 😀 Yea they are all my photos – thank you!
      I’m so glad you liked it. It’s a bit of a pity that my DSLR stopped working and we’ve had really cloudy weather so I haven’t been able to snap/see any this season yet! :/ hopefully soon. Are you going to try see it this season?

      Cheers for checking out my post, Joana!

  4. First of all congratulations on capturing the Northern Lights. They look wonderful in your photos and I’m glad you were able to get them without having to go all the way up north.

    Out of all your tips I think your first one is the most important. A lot of people go to view them thinking it’s a given and when they don’t see it they get disappointed. It’s nature and isn’t always constant.

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