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Old 20-06-2017, 04:51 AM
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Aurora in Iceland

If you went to Iceland how likely are you to see the northern lights?

Are some times of the year more likely than others?

Is Tromso Norway the aurora capital of the world?

Where would you recommend to go if you wanted to see northern aurora?

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Old 20-06-2017, 05:45 AM
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I went to Iceland in December 2015, on a 5 day trip, and only managed to see the aurora once for a few minutes in a very dark sky near Vik in the south. Daylight at that time of year less than 4 hours.
On a scale of 1:10 it was rated 1.5

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Old 20-06-2017, 11:08 AM
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Tromso definitely gets a lot of attention as being a great spot for the aurora but it's super touristy and you would definitely have to leave the town to see anything. I stayed near a town called Kirkenes in Norway near the border with Russia and while we bad bad luck with weather for the few days we were there (apparently it had been clear with aurora for the week before) it would be an awesome spot to view the aurora - super dark. Realistically I think the weather is similar all the way down the coast, or at least around the top. We caught the mail ferry the whole way down the coast and had ~10 hours of perfect aurora viewing every day. (not great for photography though as we were on a ship!)

I went all around Iceland but in summer so I don't know about the weather in winter. However when we were there the weather was really all over the place and much more likely to be cloudy than not. Iceland is also supposed to be very difficult to get around in winter. It's also further south than Norway and only a tiny bit at the top is above the arctic circle.

There is a town in the north of Sweden that's supposed to have good odds at having a clear sky - sorry I can't remember the name.
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Old 20-06-2017, 11:44 AM
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We had good luck in Norway starting at Alta and working downwards. A week or so in Iceland we didn't see anything except clouds. There's a lot of luck involved Make sure you go at a time of year when there's a reasonable amount of darkness at night.

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Old 20-06-2017, 12:10 PM
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Octane (Humayun)
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I went in February 2014 and of the two weeks I was there, I experienced aurora on 75% of those nights.

Be mindful, though, that we are now in a period of solar minimum. Aurorae for the next 11 years will be quite sporadic.

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Old 20-06-2017, 02:30 PM
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We were in Tromso at the end of the last year/beginning of this year (NYE fireworks there were spectacular btw). You can see aurora within the town itself, but it is definitely better to go out of town.

It is very much a tourist town though and of course is super expensive all round. It's location though makes it easier to do aurora chases into Finland if needed - which I've heard that the chasing companies will do if the weather is bad in Tromso - often it's the reverse inland. We hired a car and did our own thing, seeing the aurora twice while we were there.

I think no matter where you go that can get aurora, it will be the weather conditions that will play the biggest impact on seeing them - you need to give yourself a number of days to maximise your chances overall.
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Old 20-06-2017, 05:01 PM
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Definitely a gamble with the weather wherever you go ;-)

Think about the phase of the moon during your trip, but then again the moon can illuminate your foreground for a more interesting image.

I travelled with Joshua Holko around Iceland in March/April - really enjoyed the tour and his local guide, Daniel Bergmann was excellent. You can google both of their names and have a look at their websites.

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Old 20-06-2017, 05:32 PM
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Thanks for the replies.
I was checking it out on the net a bit more. Canada has a lot of aurora viewing locations.

I know Phil Hart did a lot of aurora time lapses there. Has anyone seen aurora in Canada?

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Old 20-06-2017, 06:46 PM
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Hi Greg,

Parts of Canada, Fairbanks Alaska, Tromso, Alta. All good. The hot zone for aurorae is the Arctic Circle, go further north to +75-80 latitude and the intensity and frequency drops off, likewise south.

In 2015, I went to Tromsø but stayed on a farm on Kvaløya about 60km / 1 hr drive from Tromsø. Also quite possible to stay in Tromsø and drive out at night or buy an aurora tour.

I have documented the details here :

Frequency is highest around equinox. Pick the dark winter side of the equinox. darkness evaporates quickly on the summer side of the equinox. My page also has a daylight plot for 69N.

Also note that near the arctic circle, if you pick your travel dates carefully, you can get 2 weeks without any moon. So you can go there around first or last Q or stay 2 weeks in the dark of the Moon.
So for an October visit, plan your visit across New moon and first quarter, for a Feb,March try to visit last quarter to New Moon.

All Arctic locations have problems with cloud. You need time & patience or luck to catch a clear night WITH an aurora.

We had a little of each we allocated a week(patience), 3 clear nights in a week(luck), one partly clear night with nothing, a spectacular KP5.4 display one night(bright enough that it lights up the ground) and a modest Kp3 display the other night(visible to naked eye but not spectacular bright.

I know Jay Anderson. He has some good ideas about where to find the best clear skies for aurora viewing in Canada. Unfortunately I've forgotten where he said. If you want to go there, I can email him and ask about Canada locations for you. Tromsø is easy, fly in rent a car but it is expensive.


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