…. from the polar circle. During the last 2 weeks I was way up in the North: about 300 km north of the polar circle in northern Norway. You might ask, why does one goes up north during winter voluntarily. That’s easy to answer: for seeing the northern light or polar light or aurora borealis.
This special light is only visible during the dark winter nights around the polar circle. That’s during November – March in the North or June – September in Antarctica. In the polar regions it isn’t visible either.
Eruptive material from the sun flows through the outer space. This is called solar wind. The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere saves us from these dangerous rays and the magnetic field directs the rays around our planet. But, in the region around the magnetic north pole and the magnetic south pole the rays are able to come down inside the atmosphere and stimulates the atoms to shine. It’s a fantastic sight and an amazing experience.
The natural cycle of the solar activity has a run time of about 14 years. The last maximum was reached in fall 2013. Thus, we are in the waning part of the last cycle and the next waxing period is expected to arrive in about 10 years.
I got the opportunity, to join a small group to see the polar lights and it was fantastic. Kind of a one-in-a-lifetime experience. Beside the fantastic winterly landscapes in northern Norway. There was less snow than I have had expected to see and it was warmer than expected: from -9 to +4°C. That’s similar to the conditions in my home region during winter. (Expect the amazing landscapes 🙂 ).
During the two weeks we have had 7 viewings in quite good conditions and 2 bad ones, where the sky wasn’t clear but covered with translucent clouds, where the aurora was able to shine through like light coming through fog. The other nights the sky was completely covered by clouds. So, summing all of this up this is a very good result in my opinion. Putting the waning cycle also in account (where we have had to expect only quite weak auroras), the results are very fantastic (especially for me as a freshman).
Photographing an Aurora is very hard. You have to have a camera, that is able to work well in high ISO (> 3200) without or at least with low noise. You need a sturdy tripod because of the long exposure times and fast wide-angle lenses (f2.8 or faster – the faster, the better). And, you have to be able to control your camera blind in complete dark. But, the most complicated thing is focussing! Especially with the modern auto-focus lenses. They don’t have a fix infinity point anymore.
In the gallery below, you can see a few impressions from both landscapes and auroras.