The Northern lights

... this chapter is not about scientific explainaitions, but about practical tips for northern lights watching. (if you want scientific explainations,  historical beliefs, some stories and legends related with the auroras borealis, join me for a northern light trip!)

What are the chances to see them ? according to datas from the Sodankylä geophysical observatory ( located 40 km away from Luosto), there are between 150 and 200 nights with northern lights above Luosto every year! So statistically, in Luosto, you have a little bit more than 50% chance to see northern light every night, but only if the sky is clear! Northern lights happen at very high altitude, so if there are clouds, the lights can be "on", but you just can't see them. as a rule of thumb, if you can see the stars, then you will be able to see the northern lights. It means that booking a northern light program  for a specific evening 3 months beforehand is relying on luck... I would rather recommand to check the weather forecast when you arrive in Luosto (as well as the northern lights forecast) and then only to contact me, so we agree on the best evening to go "hunting".

Can internet help me ? yes and no... there are a lot of internet site who offer northern lights forecast. They give you an indication, but you should not bet your life on them. From practical experience, I have seen those to be wrong a few times... anyway, i use mostly spaceweather.com (lots of other information on what is going on upstairs), and Auroras Now,  depending from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, and therefore relying on local datas. 

What is the best time of the year? northern lights are relatively evenly distributed over the year, but that is not the case for darkness or precipitations. So, you have to come when there are dark nights in Lapland (from early September to beginning April.). Then, you need clear sky, so check local weather datas : the best chances of having together dark night and clear sky  are from end of January untill end of March. Finally, you want to have as small light pollution as possible, so avoid times of "big moon"! Moonlight is very romantic, but when added with the snow reflective power, it decreases drastically the contrast between the sky and the northern lights. "Hardcore" northern lights watchers like to come before the snow (September-October) so that nights are really dark, and rivers not yet frozen (northern lights can then be seen also on the water surface), but September and particularly October can be quite cloudy, so you need some extra luck.

And a few more tips... If the sky is clear above Lapland, the weather can be really cold (under -30C in february!) So take extra clothes with you! If you do the snowshoeing northern light program, don´t put all your clothes on from the beginning (because snowshoeing keeps you warm whatever the temperature), and keep a really warm layer for when we stop walking. (I personnally use a very thick down jacket). If you plan to make pictures, find out how to use the night mode and/or the time exposure settings of your camera beforehand (manipulating the camera in the dark by -30C is painful for your fingers, and bad for the camera battery). Take a tripod with you, because you need long time exposure (often around 4sec and sometimes more). keep you camera fully charged and in the warm untill the last moment because cold drains the batteries quite fast... And remember to look with your eyes !!(google is full of professional quality pictures, but nothing beats the real life experience of the northern lights!) I see every winter some people spending the whole evening messing around with their big camera, and missing all the magic of what is happening here and now...