Photo: Joshua Earle / Unsplash
Fjord Tours Articles / 31 Jul 2020

Star Gazing in Norway

Aurvandil is a figure in Germanic mythology. In Norse mythology, Aurvandil's toe, which had frozen while he was carried in a basket across the Élivágar rivers by Thor, was made into a star by the thunder-god. Here's a quick guide to the constellations you can see in Norway and north of the Arctic circle.

The 12 constellations of the zodiac are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Pisces. All of these, as well as the full circle of the zodiac, are easily visible in present-day star maps among many other constellations. The largest constellations in the sky are Hydra, Virgo, Ursa Major, Cetus, and Hercules.

When it comes to Arctic stargazing, winter is the absolute best time of year to visit Norway! According to the European Southern Observatory, stable winter weather patterns combined with the dark sky and low light pollution create prime astronomy viewing conditions.

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Photo: @tomdreamsbig / Hurtigruten

What’s more romantic than stargazing aboard an Arctic cruise? Nothing! Chase the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) aboard the Hurtigruten and if you don’t catch the Northern Lights on board, the amazing star-studded sky is an ample consolation prize.

To be almost guaranteed to see the northern lights, check out our Northern Lights Chase in Tromsø.

Here's our quick guide to the constellations you can see in the Arctic circle:

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Photo: Gard Skaar Johansen / Unsplash

Circumpolar Constellations

Some stars and constellations are visible all year. These are called "circumpolar" constellations, which means their position relative to the earth remains fairly unchanged year-round.

Probably the most famous circumpolar constellation is Ursa Minor or ”the lesser bear”. The brightest star in this group is Polaris the bears tail, also known as the North Star located almost directly above the North Pole. Other constellations can only be seen during certain times of the year.

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Photo: Guillermo Ferla/ Unsplash

During Spring

Look straight up to see Cancer, "the crab". As is the case with many constellations, you might need to use your imagination for this one - Cancer is made up of five stars that roughly make a "Y" shape. Cancer is the fourth sign of the zodiac. Those who are born from approximately June 21 to July 22 (depending upon the year) are born under Cancer.

To the South you can find Hydra, snaking across the sky. Most easily identified by looking for the stars that make up the head.

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Photo: Jørn Allan Pedersen/visitnorway.com

Arctic Summer

Although most of this period is spent in 24-hour daylight, there is some darkness for stargazing at the beginning and end of the season. During these short windows, you can catch a glimpse of Hercules and Lyra in the Eastern part of the sky.

Find Hercules by searching for four stars that make a trapezoid, then connecting the dots to find the hero's arms and legs. Zeus placed Heracles in the sky as the constellation now known by its Roman name, Hercules.

Lyra is easy to spot once you've found Hercules - this constellation is just below Hercules's knee. Lyra is best known for its brightest star, Vega, which forms one vertex of the Summer Triangle asterism. Vega is the fourth brightest star in the whole sky and defines the zero point of the magnitude system.

For some insight into the Nordic Gods and Godesses, check out this fascinating article

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Photo: Andreas Kalvig Anderson / Hurtigruten

Fall

Fall brings Pegasus and Andromeda into the eastern sky. Find Pegasus, named after the winged horse Pegasus in Greek mythology, by spotting the "Great Square," a roughly even square of stars in the sky. This square actually points to the Andromeda Galaxy, named after the mythical princess Andromeda, the wife of the Greek hero Perseus.

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Photo: Philipp Lansing / Unsplash

Winter

Since winter has such great stargazing conditions, it should be no problem at all to spot these cold-weather constellations. Orion, which is located on the celestial equator, is one of the most prominent and recognizable constellations in the sky and can be seen throughout the world. Orion is the brightest and most beautiful of the winter constellations.

Start by looking toward the east and finding the three stars that make up the constellation's "belt." Once you've found the belt, you should be able to spot the other stars that make up Orion's torso and limbs. Follow along his left arm to find the bow and arrow. If you focus on his right arm instead and then look just next to it, you'll see the bottom edge of Gemini.

Gemini is the most northern of all the zodiac constellations and actually resembles “the twins” it depicts, with its two brightest stars Castor and Pollux marking their heads, and its fainter stars delineating their bodies.

There is so much romance in the air, this is definitely honeymoon material. Leave your telescope at home and come to Norway on your next couple’s vacation.