Yes, we are lucky bastards: all four nights in Finnish Lapland, we have seen the northern lights. Immediately the first evening we were surprised by the dancing green clouds of the aurora borealis. That first time was unforgettable, we were shouting outside in the snow. The lights were also visible on the second and third evening, but less clear than before. On our last evening, it was most spectacular. We had planned an aurora chasing snowshoeing tour with Andrej from Polar Creek. It was amazing and we spend hours photographing the beautiful pool lights! More about that later, first I will answer the question:
What are the northern lights?
The northern lights are natural phenomena best visible on the poles. At the North Pole these are called the northern lights, also called the aurora borealis, at the South Pole these are the southern lights, the aurora Australis. Northern lights are created by electrically charged particles (ions) of the sun, being thrown into space (solar wind). The moment these charged particles are collected via the magnetic field lines of the earth, they are directed towards the two poles. The charged particles will then enter the atmosphere, where they collide with oxygen atoms and nitrogen molecules.
This collision causes an electron transfer: from the ions to the oxygen atoms and nitrogen molecules. Because these are now out of balance, they try to neutralize the energy in the form of electrons. They do this by emitting light: the polar lights. This energy is also called geomagnetic activity.
When do you see the northern lights best in Lapland?
The northern lights are always present, to a greater or lesser extent. However, you cannot always see them. The degree of presence of geomagnetic activity is indicated by the KP index. This is a scale of 0-9 where zero indicates very little geomagnetic activity and nine indicates very much. You can see the lights between two and three. From four onward, the polar lights really get a lot stronger. Unfortunately, this does not mean that you actually see the northern lights. Since there may be clouds, or you are too far away from the poles.