In Båtsfjord you can experience the northern lights from September to March. Northern lights moves in a lot of different ways and it’s almost like it dances across the sky. Occasionally, the sky explodes into colors of green, white, pink and violet for a few seconds. You almost have to pinch yourself to make sure that it’s actually real. Northern Norway is among the world's best places to see northern lights.

What is the Northern Lights?

The northern lights are born on the sun. Charged particles are thrown out from the surface of the sun after heavy sunstorms. Some of these particles travel towards earth. When they arrive, they are led along the protective magnetic field against the magnetic north and south poles. In an annular circle around the magnetic poles, the particles hit the top layers of the atmosphere. In a process that is identical to what happens inside a fluorescent lamp, the energy is triggered as light from the ground. Most northern lights occur at an altitude of about 100 km above the ground.

How does it look?

The northern lights come in a myriad of shapes; like blazing curtains, like moving bands, like rolling smoke. The color is usually electric light green, often with a narrow pink strip on one side. From time to time, the northern lights explodes in a corona, where the northern lights shine in all directions and all over the sky in green, violet, white and pink.

Big and small eruptions

Smaller northern light eruptions often lie as a belt to the northwest and may be long-lasting. A corona happens above our heads but is over after a few minutes. Red northern lights occur occasionally, when the northern lights appear at lower latitudes.

Northern Norway in the middle of the northern lights!

The northern lights of the planet stretch along the coast of northern Norway from Lofoten towards Nordkapp. This means that Northern Norway is ideally suited to observe this phenomenon, which is the most northern light in the world. Svalbard is located further away from this belt, but here you can actually observe the northern light during mid-day.

Clear weather is important

The weather also plays a role, because you need clear weather. Inner areas have a more stable climate with more starry nights, but when cold wind from the east is at its strongest, it is clearest on the coast. Svalbard has an Arctic desert climate with good chances of northern light.

At what time during the day can it be seen?

The northern lights can come at any time, but most often between 6pm in the evening and 1am in the night.

  • It is rare to see northern lights before 18 (6pm) in the afternoon, even in the winter.
  • The highest frequency is around 22-23 (10pm-11pm) in the evening (winter time).
  • If you see Northern Lights at 19 (7pm), chances are it will happen again.
  • After 1am the chances begin to decrease. However, the chance is still present.
  • In Northern Norway, northern lights are almost every night. However, sometimes it is so weak that we do not see it from the ground.

Light pollution

 The northern lights are weak and hovering and have very little chance against neon and car lights. Be sure to be in a dark place: City lights can disturb your night vision.

  • If you are in the city, find a dark place or a high viewpoint.
  • If you are close to a city, find somewhere north of the city, as weaker northern lights are usually located in the northern sky.
  • The full moon can also weaken the northern lights.
  • Northern lights photographers usually appreciate some sort of light sources, such as houses and a crescent moon. It does not have to be completely dark.

When in the year is it best to see the northern lights?

The Northern Light is a fall and winter phenomenon.

  • During the whole period of 21 September (autumn equinox) until 21 March, it is dark after 18:00, in other words the best part of the day. On clear nights, the chance of seeing northern lights is equally big during the whole period.
  • During this period, statistically speaking, the greatest chance of clear weather is at the end of the period.
  • During the shoulder seasons, from the end of August to the end of September, and at the end of March until the middle of April, one can also be lucky to see the Northern Lights.
  • However, there are shorter nights and the chances are smaller.
  • From mid-April to mid-August it is too bright for northern lights in Northern Norway.

Things you can do to see the Northern Lights:

It's hard to wait six to seven hours in cold weather in the hope of a glimpse of northern lights. To maximize your chances, you can, for example:

  • Join an organized northern tour. Here is shelter and warm clothes included. Choose the trip that lasts the longest and ends last.
  • There are also organized northern light tours by boat, car or minibus, and they take you often where your chance of clear weather is greatest.
  • Participate in dog sledding, snowmobile tours and evening walks. Then you will have fun as well as being amongst the first to be told when and if the northern lights are reported.
  • Look at the weather forecast, rent a car and drive to where your chance of clear weather is greatest. Get the local tourist office to suggest a route.
  • Rent skis and follow the marked trails. This way you will keep warm while being under the night sky.
  • Hurtigruten has a splendid view from their rooms. If you spend an overnight stay on Hurtigruten between beautiful places in northern Norway, your chances of seeing the northern light is high.

Our Experience: Stay active during night!

Having been helping our guests with northern lights for a few years, we have learned what it takes:

Come during the period December-March. Stay as long as possible in Northern Norway, then you increase your chance!

Stay out every night as long as possible between 18 and 01, either on organized trips or on your own. Do not let bad weather stop you. Suddenly the clouds burst, and you see the northern lights!

Be flexible, and shift between coast and inland, depending on wind direction.

  • Arrive from September to March.
  • Stay as long as possible in Northern Norway, increase your chance!
  • Stay out every night as long as possible between 18 (6pm) and 01 (1am), either on organized trips or on your own.
  • Do not let bad weather stop you. Suddenly the clouds burst, and you see the northern lights!
  • Be flexible, and shift between coast and inland, depending on wind direction.

Fun facts about the northern lights:

  • Galileo Galilei gave the northern lights the name aurora borealis, which means "the northern sunrise", since the rare northern lights in lower latitudes are usually red.
  • The Northern Lights belt runs across Iceland, southern Greenland, northern Canada and northern Alaska in addition to Northern Norway Northern lights are also observed on a regular basis in Southern Scandinavia, the Baltics, Scotland and the Canadian and American prairies.
  • It has on rare occasions been seen as far south as Italy and Mexico.The southern light is the same phenomenon as the northern lights, seen in Antarctica and in the South Sea.
  • On rare occasions it has been seen on the south island of New Zealand and Tasmania.
  • The special and weaker mid-day northern light can be observed on Svalbard mid-winter. When it's dark all day.
  • The green color comes from the solar winds reacting with oxygen at about 100 km altitude.
  • The pink strip in the northern lights is due to the fact that the northern lights react with oxygen at a higher altitude.
  • Violette colors are due to reaction with nitrogen, usually at lower altitudes.
  • Petter Dass (1647-1707) mentioned Northern Norway often in his poems, but not the northern lights. Probably the northern lights were completely gone in his lifetime.
  • Kristian Birkeland started the modern northern lights research from the Haldde-toppen in Alta. See him on the Norwegian 200 NOK bill.
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