Northern lights in Lofoten © Sveinung Johansen

The aurora borealis has been fascinating travelers and locals for generations.

Each appearance of the northern lights is unique

Often you see three green bands across the night sky. Or the lights come as flickering curtains or rolling smoke. The colour is a luminous green, often with a hint of pink along the edge, and occasionally with a deep violet centre. The colour palette seems to come from the 1980s. If there is a lot of activity up there, the northern lights explode for a minute or two in a corona. The next minute it is all over, and you ask yourself whether this was real or just an Arctic fata morgana.

The science behind the northern lights

It is the sun that lies behind the formation of the auroras. During large solar explosions and flares, huge quantities of particles are thrown out of the sun and into deep space. When the particles meet the Earth's magnetic shield, they are led towards a circle around the magnetic North Pole, where they interact with the upper layers of the atmosphere. The energy which is then released is the northern lights. All this happens approximatelty 100 kilometres above our heads.

It is the sun that lies behind the formation of the auroras. During large solar explosions and flares, huge quantities of particles are thrown out of the sun and into deep space. When the particles meet the Earth's magnetic shield, they are led towards a circle around the magnetic North Pole, where they interact with the upper layers of the atmosphere. The energy which is then released is the northern lights. All this happens approximatelty 100 kilometres above our heads.

Living legend

Perhaps not so surprisingly, the northern lights' spectacle has given rise to as many legends as there have been people watching. Symbols linked to the northern lights are found on the Sami shamanistic drum. The phenomenon has several different names in Sami. It is, for instance, known as Guovssahas, which means "the light which can be heard". The northern lights were traditionally associated with sound by the Sami, the indigenous people of Norway. And during the Viking Age, the northern lights were said to be the armour of the Valkyrie warrior virgins, shedding a strange flickering light.

Be patient

No guarantee can be given. Some weeks, you are treated to fantastic displays, repeated several times during the evening. Other times, the snow falls densely, or the northern lights simply stay away. Naturally, the longer you stay and the more time you set aside, the better the odds. The northern lights belt hits Northern Norway in the Lofoten Islands, and follows the coast all the way up to the North Cape and beyond. This means that no other place on earth offers better chances of spotting the northern lights than this area.

Source: VISIT NORWAY

During winter, the Vikings at LOFOTR VIKING MUSEUM make a sacrifice to ensure the return of the sun and the light. Outside, the northern lights may be flickering on the wide sky during autumn and winter. The Viking Chieftain´s house offers a perfect outdoor arena for watching the northern lights - the aurora borealis.

SPACESHIP AURORA is a visitor-educational and activity center linked to Andøya Space Center. At Spaceship Aurora you can experience a virtual trip into space, learn to know the Northern Lights, get more knowledge of the origin and effect on our planet, and how the Northern lights are reflected in Norwegian history and culture.


Arctic Buss Lofoten

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