Northern Lights

When can i see the Northern Lights?

The activity of the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, depends on solar activity. There are several good mobile apps available to keep you updated on the situation while in Spitsbergen. One good rule of thumb to remember though; it needs to be dark outside with a clear sky to see the Northern Lights. The polar night season in Longyearbyen is the optimal time for this. The season starts from October. By this time there is already darkness at nighttime, and you might see the Northern Lights dancing on the sky after dark. From the 14th of November onward you can no longer really tell the difference between the day and night. This is a perfect time for observing the Northern Lights throughout the day. Spitsbergen is one of the few places on earth where you can observe daytime auroras as well. Polar night season is over by the 14th of February, when the first rays of the sun shine on Longyearbyen. You can still see the Northern lights at night until mid-March. From the 19th of April the midnight sun is back, and en from early April the nights are getting very bright and not optimal for Northern Lights sightings.

SOME FACTS & FIGURES

When we see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights dancing across the sky we stop to admire this majestic natural show, but only rarely do we actually think about what is behind this amazing phenomenon. Here, we have collected the most frequently asked questions about the Aurora Borealis. Next time you see the Northern Lights you might better understand the reasons behind the phenomenon, and you will notice you can enjoy the magnificent show even more.

What makes the colour of the Aurora?

The composition and density of the atmosphere and the altitude of the aurora determine the possible light emissions, making different colours

What causes the aurora?

When energetic charged particles from the sun hit thes earth’s magnetosphere. The solar wind is the outermost atmosphere of our sun. The sun is so hot that it boils off its outer layers, and the result is a constant outward expansion ofding very thin gas. This solar wind consists of protons and electrons. When these protons and electrons hit the earth’s magnetosphere, it causes aurora.

How often is there aurora?

There is always some aurora at some place on the earth. When the solar wind is calm, the aurora might only be at high latitudes and might be faint, but there it is still  thereaurora. In order to see aurora, however, the sky must be dark and clear. Sunlight and clouds are the biggest obstacle to aurora observations.

When and where are the best places to see aurora?

The best places are high northern latitudes during the winter, in Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia. During very large auroral events the aurora may be seen throughout the US and Europe, but these events are rare.