Northern lights, technically known as aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and aurora australis in the southern hemisphere is a natural phenomenon wherein charged particles of the sun enter earth’s atmosphere and produce a dazzling display of light.
This display of light, most of the times is of green color but we also can see red, pink, purple depending on the solar activity. The lights appear in dark skies and are normally seen during the winter season. These lights appear in sky as arcs, ripples, curtains.
How and why does Aurora borealis or Aurora Australis happen?
Sun is our star, which gives us light. Our sun is located at the center of our solar system The sun’s has magnetic fields, which distort and twist as our sun rotates on its axis. When these fields become knotted together, they burst and create the so-called sunspots. And the largest of the spots can be several times the size of Earth’s diameter.
At the core of the sun, the temperature is 15 million degrees Celsius and as the temperature on sun’s surface changes (rises and falls) , the sun bubbles. Particles escape from the sun from the sunspot regions on the surface, spurting particles of plasma, also known as solar wind, into space. It is these particles that travel to earth and also other planets, whereby creating the spectacular aurora.
Particles discharged from the sun are drawn towards the magnetic north and south poles. As the particles pass through the Earth’s magnetic shield. These particles react with atoms and molecules of oxygen, nitrogen etc. and thus result in the dazzling display of lights in the sky.
When the solar wind of particles reaches earth, they encounter Earth’s magnetic field. This magnetic field will deflect the particles, which move around the planet for them to hit and enter the earth near polar regions, where the magnetic field is the weakest and hence aurora activity only in regions near the poles.
How did i see it?
Iceland, that was my chosen destination for a few reasons. First, aurora is natural phenomenon, you may or may not see it, so I planned Iceland, because it is a beautiful place to travel rest aside aurora. Second, the temperature in Iceland is relatively less when compared to other areas where one can see aurora.
But, I would have gone back, a little heart broke had I not seen the spectacular wonder, which I did thanks to the right vibration and the luck two persons brought me at the right time ( more on that later)
So, I landed in Iceland, keeping in hand six days to observe the rendezvous . And it had been three days and I had not observed anything, at-least not directly with my eye.
As seen through my DSLR camera. It’s like searching for needle in a haystack, when you have traveled far to see
I moved around the coast of Iceland in Reykjavik area to see the lights but was not getting success. The weather was clear for three days straight and this is pretty good for Iceland but there was no success.
The day had come, but i didn’t knew it yet. Fourth day and clear skies, and after 24 hours cloudy weather was predicted.
From where I was staying I decided to go to Grotta lighthouse area. This area is pretty dark, so I thought may be… The lighthouse was 6 kms from where I was staying, so I decided to take the public bus as walking 6 kms in – 5 deg C with a little breeze, I should not.
I reached Grotta lighthouse, stayed there for around an hour or so but…
Again, not much of success, directly with the eye.
Was feeling a bit down but may the vibration wasn’t right or so i thought. I decided to take the public bus but I don’t know why ( at least didn’t knew then), what happened that I decided to take this 6 kms walk back.
And I walked slowly with Atlantic on my left.
An hour, yes I walked for an hour and there was something waiting for me back.
I decided to stand at Solarid Sun Voyager, just hoping for the right vibration and the right luck.
And along two amazing person, Kat & Jeannie, and the luck ( lady luck I should say) and the right kind of vibration they brought with them, made me kind of go like…speechless.
Thankyou, Kat and Jeannie, my long dream, stands now fulfilled.
Had I taken the public bus, I would have reached my residence with 10 minutes and I would have gone to sleep, but this time it was going to be different.
The show begins
At Solarid Sun Voyager
And the spectacular dancing light show begun
And the show becomes better. much better
Kat & Jeannie, this one is for you. For the transcendental experience for the luck you brought.
This entire show went for quite some time. At one moment the lights were above you and the other moment in front of you or on the side of you.
In my coming days in Iceland it was cloudy. Even the Northern light tours where they take you for aurora hunt were cancelled.
How to capture?
1.) Get a good DSLR camera or better.
2.) Use a tripod. You definitely need one to hold the camera still.
3.) Use Live View settings to focus on infinity.
4.) Put the camera in manual mode.
5.) Reduce the white balance
6.) Shutter opening, you need to increase that. I used 8 seconds, 15 seconds, & 20 seconds
7.) Don’t increase the ISO too much, the picture will turn grainy. I used 400-640
8.) Set the FNo ( where f no illustrates the depth of the field, higher f no, say f22 means larger depth of field, whereas lower fno means less depth of field). Set Fno between F4 – F5.6
9.) Take some photographs and test them
Basic questions that cross our mind regarding when, where, what time
When is the best Time?
The northern lights are always present as there is solar activity going on all the time, but winter is usually the best time to see them, mainly because of lower levels of light pollution/ darker skies and clean air. September – March, possibly even April, you can see Aurora.
Where to See?
You need to get north or south i.e. towards the poles. Up north we have Alaska, Norway, Sweden, Iceland.
How to Track Aurora?
This is NOAA link to track aurora. This works pretty good for both Northern and Southern hemisphere. All you need is a high solar activity, dark and clear skies and low light pollution.
When is the activity highest?
The sunspots and solar storms that cause the most magnificent displays of the northern lights occur roughly every 11 years. This activity is defined as solar high or low.
Last but not the least…”Peace” and a big thankyou to the special, Kat and Jeannie