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In Search of the Northern Lights...

The Northern Lights; Aurora Borealis. This phenomenon occurs when charged particles in solar wind (originating from the corona of the sun) meet the Earth’s magnetic field leading to the loss of energy. This results in a beautiful sky display.

When we visited a November-time Iceland we thought it would be perfect conditions to see the Aurora but unfortunately for us, the weather had other ideas. We had a great holiday and enjoyed all the snow, but not being able to see the Northern Lights properly, left us a bit disappointed (we ended up seeing a brief glimpse of them out of the aeroplane window). With this in mind we decided to go to Northern Norway to give us the best chance possible in seeing this spectacle.

After a three and a half hour flight from London to we arrived in Tromsø on a Saturday evening in February. Tromsø is 200 miles north of the Arctic circle, giving us a massive chance of seeing the Northern Lights. It is also Norway’s largest northern city and third largest city in the Arctic Circle, famously known as “The Paris of the North”.

On the Sunday evening 19:00 local time, we went out for a hunt to see if we could finally witness the Aurora. We drove from a rather cloudy Tromsø city centre to near the Finnish border, where the tours had had some luck the night before both with the weather and with the appearance of the Aurora.

Once we had arrived in our dark setting we were supplied tripods to help us capture the Northern Lights once they made their appearance. When photographing the lights, in order to get the best picture possible there are a few basic things you must do. This includes using a wide-angle lens, a small aperture and a slow shutter speed. In order to keep the camera still (and stop blurriness) to allow as much light into it from the aurora as possible, we needed the tripods.

As we waited for the appearance of the Northern Lights we could feel the temperature dropping. At one point it was -17 oC, after all we are in the Arctic. After hours of waiting and hoping, there was still no sign of the Aurora. It just was not to be. At this point it was about half past midnight and we headed back to Tromsø disheartened. We had come all this way to see the Northern Lights and just like Iceland, we thought we were going to leave Norway frustrated. We started to think that the Northern Lights did not exist!

This however, is not where the story ends…

Fast forward two more nights. We had just finished a beer tour of the city and had something to eat. We decided to walk along the harbour, just to take in the fantastic view of the Arctic Cathedral with the snow-covered mountains behind it. As we looked towards the sky we saw a faint white band forming over the harbour and thought:

“Is this it? Are we seeing it?”

The band gradually turned a dazzling green and swelled in size. Finally, we were witnessing the Aurora Borealis!

Now here is where we stumbled into a problem. As mentioned earlier, we need a tripod and a wide-angle lens to get a really good photograph of the skies. We also need darkness around us so that the camera only takes in the lights of the Aurora. Unluckily for us, we had neither of those aforementioned things with us at the time, simply because we were not expecting this to happen. We managed to get a few shots, but the quality is poor. Here is what we managed to see:

Finally, we saw the Northern Lights and it was as fantastic as the tales say. The Aurora grew, shrank, changed colour and changed direction and left us in awe of its beauty.

Thankyou Tromsø, you did not disappoint after all.

Smarchant Abroad

Berkshire, UK

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