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Northern lights

Twilight, Northern lights (Aurora Borealis)

In Lapland you can experience twilight or the Polar Night – a time when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. In the most northern corners of Lapland, this twilight period can last for up to 51 days. The twilight time is a rather dark time, but when the moon shines you can still see where you are going! The Northern Lights also brighten up the wintry nature of Lapland.

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
The Northern Lights are light phenomena that can be viewed in the southern and northern polar regions on a clear and dark night. The light emitted by the Northern Lights is usually formed at a height of around 100 kilometres when the electrified particles accelerated by Earth’s magnetic fields hit air molecules, that then disperse some of the energy these have accumulated in the form of visible light. This phenomenon is quite similar to the way a television picture is made, or the way a fluorescent light lights up.

The typically yellowish-green and sometimes red Northern Lights are produced by oxygen in the atmosphere, while blue and violet lights are made by nitrogen. The charged particles of the Northern Lights come from the Sun, from which they are thrown into space with the so-called solar winds at speeds of up to a thousand kilometres an hour.

According to an old Asian belief, a person who once spots the Northern Lights can live happily ever after. For instance, on average the Northern Lights may be seen every other night, mostly in September – October and February – March. The Finnish term for the Northern Lights, Revontulet, meaning fox fire, comes from an old tale where the fox was believed to swish its bushy tail on the snowy fell landscapes, throwing sparks into the air.

Northern Lights – nature’s most spectacular colour show
Encyclopaedias define the Northern Lights as colourful light phenomena occurring close to the polar regions where the charged particles carried by polar winds hit electrons and protons in the Earth’s ionosphere. This definition, although probably scientifically correct, may sound a little anticlimactic for those who have been lucky enough to witness the Aurora Polaris or Aurora Borealis phenomenon in its full splendour – a natural spectacle of vibrant colours that rapidly changes colour, intensity and form.

Shape and colours that change
The Northern Lights are usually formed at a height of approximately 100 kilometres. Their shape and colours change dramatically. Northern Lights can be seen as gently moving east – west arcs, or as rays or rapidly moving and pulsing shapes. The most common colours of the Northern Lights are greenish-yellow and red. Some people watching the Northern Lights swear the lights make sounds as they shine. To date, no scientific confirmation on this has been heard.

If you are coming to Lapland to admire the Northern Lights, you should reserve at least a week if you want to be sure to see the spectacular lights. At their brightest, the Northern Lights can provide as much light as a full moon.

Winter activities in Lapland


More information

Auroras now! (Space weather service maintened by Finnish Meteorological Institute)