FAQ

Can you see the Northern Lights in Sweden?

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, appear around the middle of August to around the end of March all over Sweden... But for the very best chance of seeing the northern lights you should make the trip to Torneträsk area in Abisko. If you are in the lower latitude's near and around 60° you preferably need Solar Flares on the sun or Solar Wind.

Can you see the Northern Lights in Stockholm?

Yes! As you can see on this page! Usually, the northern lights are only visible in Sweden's northern reaches... It is possible to see the northern lights much further south than Jokkmokk, however, and during periods of particularly high solar activity, it's not unheard of to see the aurora as far south as Stockholm and Gothenburg and even the northern parts of the United Kingdom...

When can I see the lights?

From middle of August to March. Anywhere from 21:00 ot Sunrise (9pm to Sunrise). (Swedish local time)

When is the best time to see the northern lights?

The darkest period which is between November and February offer longer evenings for gazing at the sky, while the strongest lights normally occur during October and March between 9pm and 1am. They are also seen as early as late August and as late as mid April.

The phases of the moon don’t affect aurora activity, but the moonlight can reduce the intensity of the displays. It is often mentioned that full moon should be avoided due to higher light concentration, however it is one of the most magical experiences to see the full moon together with the northern lights dancing across the sky. During a new moon the sky is slightly darker, but it is very much a matter of personal opinion, which of these sightings is the best.

 

Where do you go to see the Northern Lights?

"Northern Lights zone" — Go above 60° latitude, to 72°. A significant portion of Sweden lies within the zone (called the 'auroral oval'). Ideal viewing conditions are crisp, cold, clear, and cloudless skies. But for the very best viewing conditions you should make the trip to Torneträsk (a micro climate area) in Abisko.
LaplandTrip.com can arrange everything you need!

How does the Northern Lights work?

Solar particles collide with atmospheric gases and create colorful curtains as a result of chemistry. Bottom line: When charged particles from the sun strike atoms in Earth's atmosphere, they cause electrons in the atoms to move to a higher-energy state. When the electrons drop back to a lower energy state, they release a photon: light. This process creates the beautiful aurora, or northern lights. [Video]

Why are displays different colours?

Displays can vary in intensity – from a glowing curtain of greenish yellow lights, dancing in the distance to a spectacular, multi-coloured fusion stretching across the sky. Most people lucky enough to see the aurora witness a display of neon green lights but if you are really lucky then that display might be yellow and red, or even multi-coloured.

The differences depend on two main factors: what type of gas is reacting with the solar particles and at what altitude this activity is taking place. Most of it occurs 100-200km above the Earth – a level where ‘excited’ nitrogen atoms glow green and blue. And above 200km, oxygen atoms glow red when reacting with charged particles from the Sun.

For how long are the Northern lights visible?

Anywhere from 10 milliseconds to all night long, depending on the magnitude of the incoming solar event. Coronal holes consistently produce nice auroras but big solar flares and CME's-coronal mass ejections are responsible for global-wide aurora displays… the BIG shows!

How often do the Northern lights appear?

Basically every day, but you cannot see them during daytime. Anywhere from 21:00 to Sunrise (9pm to Sunrise). In the far north of Sweden during the season it is almost a constant Kp-index of Kp2-3, the hi latitude makes it more likely that you will see them even if they are not so strong.

Will I see the northern lights?

Sightings of the northern lights can never be guaranteed, even when the conditions seem just right. Most people appreciate the northern lights are a natural phenomenon and we can’t turn them on for you!
But what we can do is get you to locations where sightings are generally known to be possible and better than anywhere else inside Stockholm. And what’s more, those places often offer beautiful seascapes as well as landscapes perfect for photography during the day when you are not stargazing.

Patience is the key as well as a clear, cloudless night. It is important to be away from any sources of artificial light, such as street lighting. Displays can occur any time from around 5pm but most activity tends to be after 21:30pm Sightings not only vary in intensity but in duration too, from just minutes to sometimes hours.

Can you hear the Northern lights?
What do the northern lights look like to the naked eye?

What is space weather?
The term “cosmic weather” is usually understood as a set of phenomena on the Sun, in the upper atmosphere, near-Earth space and interplanetary medium, affecting the processes in near-Earth space.

Observations of space weather are associated with the monitoring of processes occurring in outer space and the initiator of which, in one way or another, is the sun. These processes can affect public infrastructure systems, including telecommunications systems and avionics, biological objects (i.e., they can affect people's health).

The primary source of disturbances are variations of solar radiation, and the transfer of disturbances is carried out by waves and particles in the interplanetary medium, the magnetosphere, and the Earth’s ionosphere. First of all, these disturbances affect those processes in which the steady balance of electric currents and magnetic fields plays a significant role. Disturbances that disturb this equilibrium can lead to various emergency situations not only in navigation, communications, electric power, but also in seemingly weakly related industries, such as extinguishing forest fires, pumping oil through pipelines or healthcare.

Auroral currents can cause damage to power lines and corrosion in oil and gas pipelines. Magnetic storms, accompanied by the emergence of ionospheric irregularities, prevent the propagation of RF radio and navigation signals from GPS satellites, and the polar cap absorption (PCA) can severely hinder or completely terminate RF communications on transpolar flight lines, requiring changes in flight routes to lower latitudes. Irradiation of spacecraft with energetic particles of solar flares and the radiation belts of the Earth can cause equipment failures, damage to solar batteries and sensors.

Geomagnetic Substorm

An aurora, or what scientists call a 'Geomagnetic Substorm' or 'Polar Magnetic Substorm', goes through three distinct phases:

  1. Growth
  2. Expansion
  3. Recovery

Acknowledgement
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What's a Magnetometer?

When the Earth is passing through a plasma cloud, the collisions of charged particles in the upper atmosphere cause disturbance to the Earth's geomagnetic field. A magnetometer is a device that measures deviations in the Earth's magnetic field, which might indicate that there is an aurora in progress. The greater the disturbance, the better the aurora is likely to be. The relationship between magnetometer readings and actual auroras in the sky is quite complex. It is possible to have strong auroras in the sky when the magnetometers are at seemingly background levels. Norwegian magnetometers provide the best correlation to visible auroras than UK-based ones. In many cases, UK magnetometers fail to detect activity or react a couple of hours after the light show started.

Growth

The Growth Phase usually starts around 1-2 hours before the expansion phase, although it can start several hours before. It is where we see a very slow fading-in of the aurora as a pink/red band that is approximately 10 degrees high on the Isle of Skye and sits above the horizon. It typically coincides with a climb in the magnetometer plots. This type of aurora is called a 'diffuse aurora'. During the growth phase, the diffuse aurora gets brighter and the discrete green arc begins to rise up over the horizon inside it. We can use this to get advance warning of the expansion phase and approximate when it might start.

Acknowledgement
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Expansion

The Expansion Phase is the one that aurora-hunters seek, as this is when the aurora explodes into the brightest colours and biggest rays. It is when the magnetometers dip sharply downwards.

Acknowledgement
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Recovery

In the Recovery Phase, the intense burst of activity during the expansion phase is waning and the magnetometers are returning to background levels. The aurora can remain for many hours after the magnetometers have normalised.

Acknowledgement
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What does Kp index mean?

 

The Kp-index is a scale used to characterize the magnitude of geomagnetic disturbances. A geomagnetic storm starts at Kp5 after which the G-scale is also used.

Example chart from NOAA showing a Kp8 storm

 

  • Kp0 = Quiet
  • Kp1 = Quiet
  • Kp2 = Quiet
  • Kp3 = Unsettled
  • Kp4 = Active
  • Kp5 = Minor storm (G1)
  • Kp6 = Moderate storm (G2)
  • Kp7 = Strong storm (G3)
  • Kp8 = Severe storm (G4)
  • Kp9 = Extreme storm (G5)

The K-index quantifies disturbances in the horizontal component of earth's magnetic field with an integer in the range 0–9 with 1 being calm and 5 or more indicating a geomagnetic storm. It is derived from the maximum fluctuations of horizontal components observed on a magnetometer during a three-hour interval.

Natural Phenomenon

A phenomenon, in a scientific context, is something that is observed to occur or to exist. This meaning contrasts with the understanding of the word in general usage, as something extraordinary or outstanding.

Phenomena are categorized in a number of ways. Natural phenomena are those that occur or manifest without human input. Examples of natural phenomena include gravity, tides, biological processes and oscillation.

Here are a few of the many possibilities, types of natural phenomena include: Weather, fog, thunder, tornadoes; biological processes, decomposition, germination; physical processes, wave propagation, erosion; tidal flow, and natural disasters such as electromagnetic pulses, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.

  • Social phenomena are those that occur or exist through the actions of groups of humans. Six degrees of separation, for example, is a phenomenon that is demonstrated in social networking.
  • Psychological phenomena are those manifested in human behaviors and responses. The sunk cost effect, for example, is the tendency for humans to continue investing in something that clearly isn’t working. Another psychological phenomenon, the Hawthorne effect is demonstrated by an improvement in human behavior or performance as a result of increased attention from superiors, clients or colleagues.
  • Visual phenomena include optical illusions, such as the peripheral drift illusion in which people perceive movement in static images like Kitaoka Akiyoshi's rotating snakes.

The word phenomenon is derived from the Greek verb phainein, which means to show, shine, appear, to manifest or to be manifest.

Myths and Legends

  • The name ‘aurora borealis’ is credited to Galileo and means ‘northern dawn’.
  • Some Northern American Inuit call the aurora ‘aqsarniit’ (literally ‘football players’) because they believe that the lights are ancestral spirits kicking around the head of a walrus.
  • The old Norse explanation was that the strange, shimmering green lights were old maids dancing in the heavens.
  • Vikings believed the glowing lights were reflections from the shields of the Valkyries, maidens who transported fallen warriors to Valhalla.
  • Scandinavian fisherman called the sightings Herring Flash as they saw them as a sign of rich catches, believing them to be caused by light reflecting off vast shoals of lively herring.
  • Modern day myths exist too – the Japanese believe that babies conceived under the northern lights will become intellectuals.