Status: 26.09.2023, 15:00 p.m.
By: Franziska Kaindl
To see the Northern Lights, you usually have to travel far north. Certain travel destinations are known for the apparitions in the sky.
Anyone who looked at the sky over Bavaria on Monday night (25 September) may have witnessed a rare phenomenon with a bit of luck: the reddish glow of a northern lights or aurora. Webcam images over the Zugspitze show it around one o'clock at night and at four o'clock, as reported by the Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR). "Maybe you've even seen it, but didn't even perceive it as an aurora, because to the human eye it's more of a slight shimmer. It's only in the photos that you can see the great colors," said Kathrin Kolb from the Bayern-1 weather department. Usually, aurora hunters have to travel much further north to see the aurora borealis. But where exactly and at what time of year is a sighting very likely, for those who don't want to leave it to chance?
What are Northern Lights?
Northern lights are formed when charged particles from the solar wind hit the Earth's atmosphere, reacting with atoms and molecules. This is used to generate light, which then appears in the night sky in various colors and shapes – from green to red to purple bands.
Here you can see colorful northern lights over Tromsø in Norway. © Addictive Stock/Imago
Where are auroras most often spotted?
During normal activity, auroras occur between the 70th and 80th parallel, i.e. in northern Norway and Greenland, as the online portal Heise reports. During so-called solar storms, however, the radius expands, so that the colorful bands in the sky can also be seen over southern Norway and Sweden. Here is a detailed list of the regions where auroras are most common:
- Norway: Located far north and surrounded by high mountains, the coastal towns of Tromsø and Narvik offer the perfect conditions and an excellent backdrop for the Northern Lights. Also on the archipelago of Lofoten and Vesterålen you have a good chance to experience the natural spectacle. According to the tourism portal Visit Norway, you have the best conditions for observing the Northern Lights from the end of September to the end of March, but especially in cold and dry weather from December. A sighting is most likely between 18 p.m. and 1 a.m.
- Sweden is also one of the countries in Scandinavia where you can go hunting for the Northern Lights. The best chances are in the city of Kiruna, the villages of Jukkasjärvi or Porjus and in the Abiska National Park in Swedish Lapland. The first Northern Lights observations in autumn are possible in the far north of Sweden from September, and between December and January, people in the areas around the Arctic Circle and below also come to see the phenomenon, as Visit Sweden informs.
- Finland: In Northern Lapland, auroras are visible on about 200 nights a year, according to Visit Finland – the further north you are, the better your chances. In general, the colorful light strips are in season from the end of August to April in the north of Finland. To see them, however, you should choose a clear night.
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- Iceland: The best view of the Northern Lights in Iceland is from November to January, as this is where the nights are darkest, but in general observations are possible from September to April. Great places to observe the natural phenomenon are the Jökulsárlon glacier lagoon, Thingvellir National Park, Asbyrgi Gorge or Kirkjufell Mountain.
- Travelers to Alaska will also have the opportunity to see the delicate play of light in the sky. The season for observations extends from the end of August to the end of April. If you want to increase your chances, you should choose a clear night between midnight and four o'clock in the morning. Among the best places to see the Northern Lights is Fairbanks, the second largest city in the state.
- Canada: With a bit of luck, auroras can be seen almost everywhere and at any time of the year in Canada. However, the chances are significantly higher in the months from December to March. The Northwest Territories are one of the top destinations for observing the Northern Lights, as the natural spectacle is visible here around 240 days a year.
- Greenland: In Greenland, too, it is possible to observe the Northern Lights all year round, but the real season is only from the end of September to March. Among the best places to visit are Kangerlussuaq, Nuk and in Ilulissat in Disko Bay.