Europe / Norway / The Voyage

Chasing The Northern Lights In Tromsø

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Aurora, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights to even dancing lights all refers to a natural light display in the sky caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles with the thermosphere.

Tromsø is in the middle of the Aurora Borealis zone and is one of the best places in the world to observe the aurora. Because of the Earth’s rotation, Tromsø moves into the aurora zone around 6pm and moves out again around midnight.

As it is light round the clock in the summer, no aurora is visible between late April to mid-August.

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We will be spending 2 nights in Tromsø and we are off to chase the lights on our very first night. Because the lights is a natural phenomenon, it’s not guaranteed — part of me is really worried that we are not going to see anything based on the KP-Index since we arrived (very low activities since New Year).

I downloaded an app on my mobile phone to keep track of the activities since December, LOL.

I wasn’t keeping my hopes high because some of my friends have visited in the past week or so but see nothing. Some of my friends went Iceland, some Finland and some Tromsø. And some lights were so weak, my friends didn’t get to see with their naked eyes and only through their camera lens.

Fingers crossed, if not we would have to book another trip the next night.

At 6:30pm, we gathered at Radisson Blu Hotel just steps away from the hotel we are staying at. We meet our tour guide and hopped onto the mini bus — off we go for the experience of a lifetime.

The minibus is clean and comfortable and the bus is full — not a bad thing tho, nice and comfy, and warm too.

It’s freezing out there and I wore a total of 4 layers on the top and 3 layers at the bottom. I looked like a giant “fish ball” with my hat on but seriously, it was so cold and windy out there, there’s no any other way to dress. Gloves are essential so are hand and foot warmers (heat packs) are absolutely crucial.

We even made some “Old Town” coffee in a tumbler to go along — tastes like heaven.

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Our tour guide provides everything you need — extra clothing and heat packs if you are cold, tripod and everything you need to take a decent photo. Marcus and his team are so friendly and professional, they go around helping anyone who needs help adjusting camera settings or simply have a question or two about the lights.

At the 3rd location, we stopped for the longest — the team set up a camp fire by a frozen stream (which I accidentally stepped on, slippery like nothing but thank goodness the ice was solid enough not to break) and we had the best Fish Stew ever. It’s too dark to figure out what’s exactly in the pot but there’s definitely tomatoes, potatoes and fish.

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The tour goes something like this — meet at the pick-up point, hop onto the mini bus and drive away from the city. During the tour, we stopped at various different locations in the hope to catch the magnificent light display.

It was also at the 3rd location we saw the brightest light display — according to Marcus, it’s the brightest in weeks. The lights were literally right above us, dancing slowly and graciously. It was so beautiful I can’t describe.

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Arctic Fishing Adventures
Marcus Åhlund

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Aurora comes in several different colours, most of the time green and some times there’s a mix. Apparently, red and blue lights are rarer to see.

Information below extracted from Wikipedia.

  • Red: At the highest altitudes, excited atomic oxygen emits at 630.0 nm (red); low concentration of atoms and lower sensitivity of eyes at this wavelength make this color visible only under some circumstances with more intense solar activity. The low amount of oxygen atoms and their very gradually diminishing concentration is responsible for the faint, gradual appearance of the top parts of the “curtains”.
  • Green: At lower altitudes the more frequent collisions suppress this mode and the 557.7 nm emission (green) dominates; fairly high concentration of atomic oxygen and higher eye sensitivity in green make green auroras the most common. The excited molecular nitrogen (atomic nitrogen being rare due to high stability of the N2 molecule) plays its role here as well, as it can transfer energy by collision to an oxygen atom, which then radiates it away at the green wavelength. (Red and green can also mix together to pink or yellow hues.) The rapid decrease of concentration of atomic oxygen below about 100 km is responsible for the abrupt-looking end of the bottom parts of the curtains.
  • Yellow and pink are a mix of red and green or blue.
  • Blue: At yet lower altitudes atomic oxygen is not common anymore, and ionized molecular nitrogen takes over in visible light emission; it radiates at a large number of wavelengths in both red and blue parts of the spectrum, with 428 nm (blue) being dominant. Blue and purple emissions, typically at the bottoms of the “curtains”, show up at the highest levels of solar activity.

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Seeing the lights is definitely the highlight of this trip which is also somewhat the purpose of this trip but when planning, I tried to fit in other activities, towns and cities so even if we didn’t get to see the lights, we won’t be as disappointed.

When researching about the Northern Lights, I watched many videos on the lights but seeing them in real life is a whole different story. It’s magical and beyond words can describe. It’s like “you will know the feeling when you see them”. Till today as I am typing this post, it still seems unbelievable and surreal.

“Did I really see the lights?”

Yes, I did, with two of my loved ones right beside me, my sister and husband.

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Map above shows the 4 points we went that night (I forgot which is first and last).

To sum up the night, we had a delicious hot meal + camp fire on ice by a frozen stream on a freezing winter night under the stars accompanied by the magical dancing lights.

We were extremely lucky that night, we spotted the first lights at around 8pm. The trip lasted for about 6 hours — please go to the toilet prior to hopping on the mini bus, there’s no toilet mid-way. I suppose you can request for a toilet break but I am not sure where you would have to do your business at.

Many thanks to Marcus and his team of Arctic Fishing Adventures for taking such great care of us and this unforgettable experience.

Thank you for looking.

5 thoughts on “Chasing The Northern Lights In Tromsø

  1. My God, this is incredibly gorgeous! It must have been quite a magical experience. How wonderful that you were able to get good lights as this is a once in a lifetime trip. This is definitely something one would never forget. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  2. My bucket list is made up of Singapore and the northern lights (although I want to see them from Canada), so you’re way ahead of me! Funny how I was looking for Shiseido Perfect Rouge swatches and found something far prettier. 🙂

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