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Northern lights/aurora borealis

28 replies

Conditionconditioncondition · 23/03/2021 20:21

I am interested in booking a holiday in the distant future (COVID) to see the Nothern Lights.

There is quite a lot of information when I google and I have no idea where to start.

Can anyone point me in the right direction/give tips/experiences etc?

And a rough cost.

TIA

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Seventrees · 23/03/2021 20:35

Did this in Iceland. Was totally rubbish. A small faint white patch in the sky. The effects you see in photos are only achieved through camera work.

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Conditionconditioncondition · 23/03/2021 20:44

Oh that's such a shame to hear! 3 close family members have been separately with their own families and have all said it was amazing

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applepineapple · 23/03/2021 20:44

Tromso in Norway. Saw very strong lights several days in a row. This was in early November. You won't see bright greens like on camera although it is very beautiful. This was the view from the plane on our way home

Northern lights/aurora borealis
Northern lights/aurora borealis
Northern lights/aurora borealis
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Funf · 24/03/2021 05:44

We went to Iceland to see them but didn't see them as the weather was bad. Personally I feel Norway is a nicer place to visit

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IwishIwasontheN17 · 24/03/2021 06:12

Saw them in Iceland on a spectacular night where the glow was visible as far south as Essex. We saw the full green effect with the naked eye, not the wispish grey. It was like someone chucking tins of luminous green paint across the sky. Glorious.

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notimagain · 24/03/2021 07:23

The effects you see in photos are only achieved through camera work.

Not true, the Aurora can be utterly amazing but whether you see it or not, and what you see on the night is down to luck.

I used to be in the position of being fortunate enough (due to the nature of the work I was doing) of seeing the Aurora quite frequently, as in sometimes several times a month, and sometimes was possible to see the various greens, purples and reds, and also the fast moving changing in shapes all with the naked eye just like you see in some videos...

The main reason for not seeing colours is either that your eyes aren't dark adapted due to light pollution, or the aurora is a dim one..in either case the colour receptors in your eyes may not be triggered by the aurora - the colours may be there but you won't perceive them.

Best chance of seeing a good display in rough terms is go north, go somewhere very dark, and go somewhere where there is the lowest chance of cloud cover.

www.discover-the-world.com/northern-lights/

www.skyatnightmagazine.com/advice/the-ultimate-guide-to-observing-the-aurora/

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Conditionconditioncondition · 24/03/2021 08:58

Thank you so much everyone for your incredibly helpful comments!

And thank you for the link. I'll give it a read

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Grimbelina · 24/03/2021 09:01

We saw them in Iceland and stayed at a very eccentric (but lovely) hotel with a massive real stuffed polar bear in the entrance hall. The owner ran around and woke everyone up to come out and see them!

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Seventrees · 24/03/2021 09:17

When I in theory saw them in Iceland we were told that the effects you see in photos are because they slow everything down. So if you are very very lucky (and many in Iceland are not, and see nothing or very almost nothing) it is worth seeing but is absolutely not the same as the photos. You should absolutely not travel a long way in the expectation of seeing them -many people try and don't succeed, or are disappointed by what they see.
You can see them in the Highlands of Scotland. You don't need to go abroad.

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notimagain · 24/03/2021 09:45

When I in theory saw them in Iceland we were told that the effects you see in photos are because they slow everything down

The colours can be more obvious in still images of what are known as weak aurora because of the exposure time used taking the image...A naked eye grey/light green coloured aurora to the naked eye can look more colourful if you look at any images you've taken and you might see red/purples.

However if you witness a really bright display from a dark location the colours are most definitely visible visible to the naked eye.

As for movement - yep, some of the videos you see are speeded up but some active displays change their shape (form) very quickly anyway and it's very obvious to the naked eye - typically you'll see coloured curtains of vertical rays that appear to be rippling or shimmering.

Problem is most of it's down to chance, you can make sure you're in the right place - up north with no lights, but cloud cover and the state of the solar wind, the phenomenon which triggers the aurora and what type you get to see, is down to luck.

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Zodlebud · 25/03/2021 07:24

We’ve tried to see them three times and not managed it. The best chance we had was in Luosto Northern Finland. Apparently the show was amazing and could be seen in Exeter. Unfortunately not if you were right underneath them as it was cloudy 😂😂😂.

I would go as far North as you can and away from big towns and cities and stay there as long as you can to maximise your chances.

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OllyBJolly · 25/03/2021 07:37

The effects you see in photos are only achieved through camera work

Not true. I was lucky enough to grow up in the far North and saw the "Mirrie Dancers" many times - the greens, pinks, purples. Absolutely spectacular. We got quite blasé about it.

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PuffinShop · 25/03/2021 15:28

It is basically true that cameras 'see' them better than your eyes so they always look more intense in photos. But it's also true that an intense display is incredible just to the naked eye.

I've seen a lot of underwhelming northern lights where you're not sure at first if it's the lights or a bit of cloud. I've also seen amazing bright greens, reds and purples dancing across the sky. It's pure luck and it's not necessarily a good idea to go somewhere just to see the northern lights, I would say.

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Peregrina · 26/03/2021 08:00

I too have seen them in Tromso - one night an absolutely brilliant display seen with the naked eye, another night a vague greenish tinge to the clouds and other nights - nothing. So it's definitely down to luck.

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Mxflamingnoravera · 26/03/2021 08:26

I saw them on a flight back from San Francisco the flight goes over the pole and the lights were there for hours. This in October. It was an unexpected addition to a wonderful trip.

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MrsMoastyToasty · 26/03/2021 08:42

You can sometimes see the aurora from Northern Scotland. I belong to a Facebook group called aurorawatch UK.

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LaurieSchafferIsAllBitterNow · 26/03/2021 09:26

As pp have said it is not all camera work in the photos! I live in NE Scotland and have already seen them twice this year.

The display needs to be pretty strong for you to see the major colours as human eyes generally do not perceive colour well in low light conditions, the camera is designed to make the best of low light and colours.

Best displays tend to be around the equinoxes...so Oct ish and March ish and there is an eleven year cycle ...we are heading out of the minimum toward the max and obviously the further north you are the more likely you are to see a better/higher/brighter display.

When I am rich I am going to book one of those cruises that guarantee sightings or give you another break! ...hurtigruten maybe, I cba to google.

There's loads of fb groups so maybe join a few and get an idea!

The low arc is what we get most often due to how "south" we are relative to the Arctic Circle, but we have had it right across the sky, east to west and up to completely overhead.
Pic one is from my phone in Jan 21, second is NewYear 2015-16 there was a surprisingly good show at the beginning of the year and the last is from 2019 and one of my faves, visible to the naked eye.

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LaurieSchafferIsAllBitterNow · 26/03/2021 09:30

trying again! but with only the first pic! I think the other two were from the bigboy camera so big files!

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MrsWooster · 26/03/2021 09:36

We went to Iceland in Oct 2008 to see them and didn’t-worth it for wonderful Iceland though. My long term plan /dream is the hurtigruten multi stop cruises up to the far north of Norway. They have ones with lecture seasons on things like astronomy!

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Peregrina · 26/03/2021 10:25

I have done a winter Hurtigruten trip - the lights showed just enough to stop them giving us another free trip! I saw a much better display when we went independently to Tromso. So it's definitely luck.

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AnnPerkins · 26/03/2021 10:38

We saw them in Iceland. We were on a three night trip and had an excursion from our hotel late in the evening. There were warnings and disclaimers that we might not see anything and you have the option to go out again the next night if you're unlucky the first time.

Luckily for us we saw some in the first hour. They're not easy to photograph, I downloaded an app which helped get some half-decent pictures.

There's obviously so much more to see in Iceland so if you don't get to see the northern lights it's not a wasted trip. It's not cheap though!

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Bluntness100 · 26/03/2021 10:41

We went to Iceland and didn’t see them, the guides did say that they look nothing like the photos so not to be disappointed. As it worked out we didn’t see them anyway. Iceland was fantastic though. Well worth the trip

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romanziere · 26/03/2021 10:46

We saw them in Svalbard -- on the way to town from the airport we signed up for a service the driver offered, where he'd text you if there was a good chance of seeing them, and do a trip immediately. He texted one evening and we went off (in the airport bus) to seek them out.

It took hours before it happened. There was a lot of standing around on a snowy mountainside at minus 20 degrees, but it was absolutely and entirely worth it. Suddenly the vague greenish glow on the horizon turned into a bright green sky with moving lights. It was absolutely incredible and otherworldly and remains one of the most magical moments of my life.

I didn't get any photos as we only had phone cameras, and the phones had turned themselves off in protest at the cold, which was fair enough. I quite like it that my only pictures of it are in my memory.

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Seventrees · 26/03/2021 11:59

In Iceland, I did the quite pricy trip where you get the option to go out the next night if you don't see them. But the tiny patch of what looked like faint white cloud apparently counted as having seen them.

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notimagain · 26/03/2021 13:00

the guides did say that they look nothing like the photos so not to be disappointed.

Sounds like a slight case of expectation management to me..possiby with good reason.

As others have said and I can also attest they definitely can sometimes look like "the photos" and a really bright display is one of the wonders of the natural world...but it's luck.

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