10 best places to see the Northern lights-in Russia and abroad
Do you dream of seeing the Northern lights live? We have compiled a guide to help you realize your dream. Choose your route, follow the simple tips and be ready to break away at any time to meet the most unearthly spectacle that can be seen without leaving the planet.
Where you can see the most beautiful Aurora
* Murmansk, Murmansk region
• The Khibiny mountains, Kola Peninsula
* Arkhangelsk, Arkhangelsk region
* Vorkuta, Komi Republic
* Khatanga, Krasnoyarsk territory
• Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway
* Tromso and Alta, Norway
• Abisko, Lappland, Sweden
* Akureyri, Iceland
* Ivalo, Finland
See also: 14 amazing natural phenomena
What is the Aurora Borealis and how to find it
Encyclopedia dryly explains that the Aurora is the glow of the upper rarefied layers of the atmosphere, caused by the interaction of atoms and molecules with charged particles of high energy, invading the earth’s atmosphere from space. In human terms, and very simply, this means that the Sun throws millions of tons of particles into space, and in 2-5 days they reach the upper layers of The earth’s atmosphere, where nitrogen and oxygen are so happy to meet that they glow with excitement.
Detailed and complex about the physics of auroras.
The glow occurs in the area of the earth’s magnetic poles. Fortunately, the magnetic poles do not coincide with the geographical ones, so we can observe the lights at latitudes around 67-70°, and sometimes much closer to the equator, up to Moscow and Tver.
The earth has two poles, so there are two auroras — North and South. To see the southern lights is problematic-simply because there are not so many inhabited places at the right latitudes of the southern hemisphere. But in the Northern hemisphere, there are a lot of corners where you can see the Aurora. And to see it, you don’t even need to leave Russia.
How to see the Aurora Borealis
First, the bad news: it is difficult to catch the Northern lights — too many circumstances must be successful. So be mentally prepared to be rolled on the North in vain. Good news: if you follow simple tips, you can significantly increase your chances.
When is the Aurora Borealis
The season of lights is considered to be the period from the autumn to the spring equinox, that is, from September to March. This does not mean that the sky lights up only in these months, the glow may well happen in August. But the probability is still higher in winter-approximately from November to February. At the same time, in high latitudes at this time, the night lasts for 18-20 hours, and even weak lights will be visible more clearly. Professionals say that the best time of day for observations is from about 10 PM to 3 am.
The best flights and inspiration for spontaneous travel are available in the Skyscanner app.
How to increase your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis
1. Watch for flashes in the sun
The main condition for the Aurora is the emission of particles to the Sun. After this release, you will have two to five days to get to the desired latitudes. Of course, the more powerful the emission, the more likely it is that there will be a glow at all. Space weather is observed by many observatories around the world, here are the sites of some of them:
* Institute of terrestrial magnetism, ionosphere and radio wave propagation, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
* Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, USA
* Meteorological Institute of Finland
• Lancaster University, United Kingdom
* Space weather forecast center, USA
Each site tracks the K — index, the magnetic activity index. Its values range from 1 to 9, where one-everything is quiet, nine-electronics fails. We noticed that the K-index reached a value of 4-5 or higher-pack your things and go North. It is convenient to follow the forecasts of the polar lights through the USCCP apps for iOS and Android.
Don’t miss: 45 useful apps for travelers
2. Stay away from cities
Electric lights in cities create light pollution, so the night sky is less contrasting next to them, and the Aurora is much less visible or not at all. The larger the city, the more light noise and the further away from it you need to drive. From a small village, 5-10 km is enough, from the metropolis-at least 50-70 km.
3. Wait for clear weather
Auroras glow at an altitude of more than 100 km. the Clouds are always lower, that is, they will be between you and the Aurora and close the view. In winter, there is more chance of clear skies on frosty days and during cold spells.
4. Get as far North as you can
The closer you get to the Arctic circle (or even go even further North), the more likely you are to see the Aurora. Although, it depends on the value of the K-index: if it rolls over to 8-9 points, you can just look out the window, even if you live in Sochi.
Useful things that will be useful for observations
☑ Car — own or rented
The car is very helpful in the hunt for the Northern lights, and not so much because you can quickly escape from the zone of light pollution of the city and choose a convenient viewing platform. The main advantage of the car is that you can warm up in it.
☑ A full tank of gasoline and a couple of cans in reserve
To run to warm up in the car, it makes sense not to jam it and drown it constantly.
☑ A thermos of tea
In the cold, alcohol warms you at short distances, but it hurts you at long distances. Therefore, it is better to store alcohol for returning to the heat.
☑ Warm shoes
Of course, you will not forget to dress warmly. But pay special attention to shoes, because you will have to stand for a long time in the snow or frozen ground.
A tripod is necessary if you want to achieve high-quality photos.
☑ Spare batteries
In the cold, batteries and batteries are discharged very quickly. Make sure you have spare parts for your flashlight, phone, and camera. Keep them either in the car or in the inside pockets of your clothing.
☑ Good camera
It is theoretically possible to photograph the Aurora on a “soap dish”, but it is not easy and it will only work with bright lights. Therefore, if you want to capture the spectacle — take a “mirror” or at least “mirrorless”from your friends. And practice shooting at long exposures in advance.
Where to go to see the Aurora Borealis
In Russia, at first glance, there are almost limitless opportunities to observe the Northern lights. Still, the Arctic circle crosses half the country, and a grandiose sky show can be seen in Karelia and Chukotka. But in winter, many places are difficult to get to, and the temperature in some places can fall to -45 °C. in addition, a flight to remote parts of Russia can be fabulously expensive. Therefore, from Moscow and St. Petersburg, it is best to go hunting for the Northern lights in the Arkhangelsk or Murmansk regions. This is both more convenient and cheaper, and the winter weather in these parts is not as sharp as, say, on Taimyr.
If good roads and infrastructure are more important to you than saving money, go hunting for the Aurora abroad. In Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, you can enjoy a fantastic natural phenomenon even from the warm room of a comfortable hotel.
Murmansk region, Russia
In the Murmansk region, pay attention to Teriberka, Vidyaevo, Pechenga, or any other town with minor light pollution. The main thing is to make sure that you can drive to them in winter.
You can get to Murmansk and back by plane for 4-8 thousand rubles.
The Khibiny mountains, Kola Peninsula
The Khibiny mountains are located South of Murmansk, but on higher ground there is more chance of a clear sky, and light pollution in these parts can be completely forgotten. Unfortunately, the infrastructure here is not very well developed, and many hotels are either closed for the winter, or very difficult to access. Good by local standards, the recreation center “Kuelporr” promises a winter transfer from Kirovsk on snowmobiles.
Arkhangelsk region, Russia
In principle, the Northern lights can be seen in Arkhangelsk itself. But in the context of the power of the Aurora latitude, it is much inferior to the same Murmansk, so it is better to make Arkhangelsk a base for travel, and for the Northern lights to go even further to the North of the region.
A round-trip flight to Arkhangelsk will cost approximately 4 600 — 7 300 rubles.
Vorkuta, Komi Republic of the Russian Federation
In the Republic of Komi, the Aurora is not uncommon, sometimes it is seen even in Syktyvkar in August. But to increase the chances, it is better to go further North, to Vorkuta. Be very careful when driving for the first time in the winter in the North. At dusk, the winter road merges with the endless snow-covered roadside, and you can easily get off the road, getting stuck in the snow up to the roof.
A flight to Vorkuta can be cheaper if you connect two flights in Syktyvkar on your own.
Khatanga, Krasnoyarsk territory
Khatanga village is a choice for those who are looking for both the Northern lights and adventure. This is the heart of Taimyr, with an average annual temperature of -13 °C. but it is one of the northernmost localities in Russia: in terms of polar lights, it is much more profitable in latitude than Murmansk, and even Iceland.
KrasAvia and Nordstar planes fly directly to Khatanga from Krasnoyarsk and Norilsk.
Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway
Longyearbyen, the” capital ” of Norwegian Svalbard, is located at 78 degrees North latitude — you can only get closer to the North pole as part of an Arctic expedition. Air service to Svalbard is excellent, but all flights from Russia are operated with two transfers and cost a lot-from 26,000 rubles. You can save up to 10,000 rubles on a flight if you connect flights yourself: for example, a ticket from Moscow to Oslo costs 4-10 thousand rubles, from Oslo to Longyearbyen — 4-13 thousand rubles.