Northern Lights – 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. 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. Cannula Gutenberg northern lights Stockholm

-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 city. And what’s more, those places often offer beautiful seascapes as well as landscapes perfect for photography during the day whilst you are not star gazing.

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 11pm Sightings not only vary in intensity but in duration too, from just minutes to sometimes hours.

-Can you hear the Northern lights?

Most likely, Yes! [explanation, scroll down to the bottom of the page ]

(near the South Pole, Aurora Australis are the Southern Lights).


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.