One of the main reasons that attracts travelers to the polar lands in the winter is the myth of the Northern Lights. The aurora is in fact the dream of many adventurers who, backpackers, travel every year along the continent in search of this wonderful phenomenon not easy to see. Notice that it is not enough to reach the North to be able to enjoy this incomparable show, let us say that you are only half of the work. It is not enough to look up at the sky and wait hoping for good luck, because as a well-known idiom says, “fortune favors the brave”. Being “in the right place at the right time” can decree victory or total defeat. Since we first had a lot of bad luck and some difficulties, we decided to write this article to guide you and inform you about everything you need to know to greatly increase the chances of meeting your majesty the Aurora.
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Before we get to the heart of our do-it-by-yourself aurora hunting guide, let’s take a brief scientific excursus to better understand what our strengths will be.
“The polar aurora is an optical phenomenon of the earth’s atmosphere, characterized mainly by luminous bands of a wide range of shapes and colors rapidly changing in time and space, typically red-green-blue. […] The origin of the aurora is 149 million km from the Earth, that is on the Sun. The appearance of a large group of sunspots is the first sign of an expulsive activity of intense coronal mass. […] The phenomenon is caused by the interaction of charged particles of solar origin (solar wind) with the terrestrial ionosphere (atmosphere between 100-500 km): these particles excite the atoms of the atmosphere that then de-energizing emit light of various wavelengths. […] The particular colors of an aurora depend on which gases are present in the atmosphere, their electric state and the energy of the particles that strike them. Atomic oxygen is responsible for green color and molecular oxygen for red. Nitrogen causes blue color.” – from Wikipedia, you can read more here.
What can we understand from this excerpt? Simply that the aurora can be expected, being a phenomenon related to solar activity. At this point the game is done, you just have to equip yourself with an instrument that provides you what is the energy released by the Sun and how it will reach the Earth. Essentially after a own selection we offer you the easiest solution:
My Aurora Forecast – Aurora Alerts Northern Lights ( Android Version)
My Aurora Forecast & Alerts ( IOS Version)
This application does for you exactly everything you need: according to solar activity provides the intensity of the aurora in the following 7 days, gives you information about the current condition and updates it constantly for the minutes and the hours later, check the weather conditions and interpolate all this information to tell you how many chances you have to see the aurora in the indicated location. We discovered this app when our journey was going to the end, we used it to monitor the activity of the sky and the percentage of reliability for what has been our experience is 100%. Below we will show you all the information you need to follow when you will try the hunting experience, or as the professionals say, the Aurora Hunting!
This is the first screen that you will face once application is opened.
KP INDEX – In the first part of the screen is shown the percentage of visibility of the aurora in the chosen location. It can be changed at any time by tapping the box!
AURORA MAP – In the second part of the screen you can see on the world map where and how the aurora is moving. Touching the map with your finger, it will open in full screen allowing you to navigate on the planisphere and enlarge the areas concerned.
The aurora is represented with 3 different colors: green (visibility below 20%), orange (visibility above 25%) and red (visibility above 40%).
Let’s move to the second page of the app, as our beautiful arrow shows, scrolling with your finger.
VIEWING PROBABILITY – Here you can read the probability of seeing the aurora in half an hour (very useful for hunting planning), every 5 minutes interval. The higher it is, the better it is.
CLOUD COVERAGE TONIGHT – In this section you find another, fundamental, information, ie the percentage of cloudiness. The lower it is, the better it is. It is said that the enemy number one of the aurora is the weather, nothing more true! We can ensure you that you will spend the whole day viewing the weather forecast of the application because, in addition to being very reliable (it has never failed a shot!) is essential for your goal!
MAXIMUM POTENTIAL KP – The trend of KP index, that represents the intensity of solar activity, and consequently the trend of the aurora is shown in the following hours. The higher the value in a scale from 0 to 9 is (1 indicates a quiet condition, while above 5 there is a geomagnetic storm) and more fabulous the aurora will be.
KP UPCOMING DAYS – In this part you can observe the trend of solar activity in the following 7 days.
Further scrolling the application pages to the right, you can find more technical information (real-time spectrograms of the solar movement or values set in KP) as well as advertising about aurora hunting (it shows you which tour operators nearest you do this activity). These are information that does not add anything more to your hunting but satisfy your curiosity about what, at that moment, is happening to the Sun.
A very useful feature that we want to highlight about this application is the possibility to receive a notification on your smartphone to alert you when the aurora becomes visible in your location. So you can relax yourself and enjoy your holiday without the anxiety of constantly opening the app and without the need to spend hours outdoors in the cold in a vain waiting.
In addition to this powerful technological tool that we strongly recommend you to use, there are the usual little tricks of general validity in the aurora hunting:
1- cover yourself well, because the aurora phenomenon could occur for hours;
2- move away from the light sources to enjoy the show in all its intensity;
3- prefer wide open spaces, as can be frozen lakes and rivers, do not allow trees around you to hide the complete view of the sky;
4- equip yourself with professional cameras (so that you can set the exposure parameters), with a tripod to prevent the photos from being moved, with reserve batteries as their capacity decreases proportionally with the temperature.
As our further advice we suggest you, if you have the opportunity, to rent a car during your stay: during the day you will need to move freely from one point of interest to another, in the evening you could use it to go to the localities around you where the percentage of visibility is higher.
So, thanks our advice you cannot come back home without having see one of the most beautiful shows that Mother Nature could give us. The only reason why you could skip this exceptional event could be the adverse climatic condition: nothing can be seen in a deep and widespread 100% cloudiness condition. If so, you would have a good reason to return in this wonderful land and, guaranteed, you will return until you have succeeded in your intent because, at that point, you have made it as a matter of principle.
See you soon