Photo: Tromsø Friluftsenter
Fjord Tours Facts / 21 Mar 2019

The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, is a spectacular natural phenomenon that amazes even the most critical viewer. But how does it happen and where can you see natures finest lightshow?

The Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, is a spectacular natural phenomenon that amazes even the most critical viewer.

How does it happen?

When the solar winds meets the atmosphere around the magnetic north pole, the phenomenon known as Aurora Borealis is created. When this meeting occurs waves, arches and curls of light move across the sky, and sudden rays of light shoot down from space.

The southern hemisphere has its own version of the northern lights called the aurora australis, or the southern lights. The northern lights can only be seen in certain areas and the display of light varies in intensity, color and movement.

Photo: ©Yngve Olsen Saebbe /

When is the best time to see the Aurora Borealis in Norway?

The time period we call magnetic midnight is usually the best period to see the northern lights. It usually occurs some hours before midnight and is when the viewer, the North Pole, and the sun are in alignment. In short, as in all things earth-related it is the sun that decides whether we get to see the aurora borealis or not. It is when the sun hits atoms and molecules in our atmosphere that the sky lights up.

The charged particles of the sun cause the electrons in our atmosphere "to hit the road" - heading towards higher energy orbits while releasing photons that let off light particles. The northern lights can be seen from as early as September to the end of March. While they occasionally travel south of the Arctic Circle, the further north you go in this part of the year, the more likely you are to get "the full show". 

Photo: © Tromsø Friluftsenter

Myths and superstitions

  • Soldiers in medieval Europe thought that a red aurora borealis meant the outbreak of war
  • The Finnish word "revontulet" (in English: "fox fires"), comes from the old belief that foxes running over the tundra wag their furry tails and emit sparks on the sky
  • In Finnmark, Norway, people believed that if a child was conceived during the northern lights it would gain special abilities
  • In Sami mythology, it is considered bad luck to whistle at the northern lights. It is also believed that if you wave at the lights, they'll take you away
  • In ancient China, people believed the northern lights were a dragon's fiery breath flashing across the sky

How do I get to see it?

The sky aflame with the Northern Lights is an amazing sight to behold, and you can experience the view in Tromsø, where we offer several tours and experiences. If you want to check out a Northern Lights forecast visit the Aurora Forecast here!