Do you dream of seeing the northern lights? Now is the time! From now until 2026, aurora borealis activity is expected to reach its highest levels in 11 years.
Approaching solar maximum
Would you like to experience the greatest light show on earth? The next few years are predicted to be especially good for those chasing the spectacular northern lights (but don't worry, there will be PLENTY of auroras in the following years as well!).
"The activity of the sun controls the activity of the northern lights. The sun constantly emits charged particles. Sometimes there are solar storms that emit even more of these particles. Right now, the sun is approaching a new solar maximum — when there is much more activity than usual. There are 11 years between such peaks, and we expect to reach a new peak in 2025," says Pål Brekke, Head of Space Research at the Norwegian Space Agency.
"This means that this year will be good, next year will be even better, and then it usually stays at the same level for three or four more years. So there will be very good conditions for at least the next three years, which bodes well for northern lights tourism."
The aurora borealis can be seen in Northern Norway, and sometimes throughout the whole country, between September and April, when thesky is clear and dark. Statistically, the highest activity levels are in the spring (March/April) and autumn (September/October).
Aurora in pink
And the light show is on! Several so-called 'cannibal' storms reached the earth in the autumn of 2023, resulting in particularly good aurora borealis conditions.
Pål Brekke explains that when one solar storm catches up with another, it can 'eat' it up — hence the term 'cannibal storm'. When this phenomenon occurs, solar storms gather into a gas cloud that is more powerful than the storms were individually. The gas cloud drags a magnetic field from the sun, which eventually hits the Earth's magnetic field and creates beautiful colours across the sky, causing Norwegian Instagram accounts to overflow with breathtaking images.
The northern lights normally appear green, but this autumn lucky viewers had the chance to see Lady Aurora dancing in a pink dress — a rare phenomenon.
Check out these photos taken in different parts of Norway in the autumn of 2023!
How to experience the green diva
Brekke has some tips for those who want to experience the dazzling phenomenon.
"First of all, use a northern lights app that sends push notifications for your location. But most importantly, make sure the weather is clear and move away from streetlights and other light pollution. Find a dark place, preferably at least 150 meters away from buildings, and look north."
What creates the northern lights?
Here is a leading space scientist's explanation of what happens:
"Solar particles that manage to penetrate the Earth's magnetosphere are guided along the magnetic field lines towards the polar regions. When they hit the Earth's atmosphere, they collide with oxygen and nitrogen. These collisions, which typically occur at altitudes between 80 and 300 km, transfer energy to these atoms (they become excited), and immediately emit light of a specific frequency or colour. When billions of such tiny flashes of light occur every second, the overall effect is a spectacular, glowing palette of green, red, white, and blue. The mechanism that makes the sky glow is very similar to what happens in a fluorescent tube, a neon light, or an old-fashioned television."
Check the northern lights forecast
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