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Best period to watch northern light in Norway

Watching opportunities

Excellent
Good Medium None*
March February January May
October Beginig of April November June
  September December July
      August

 *Impossible to watch at Northern light due to constant daylight

Northern lights in the Lofoten's Islands - Martin KulhavyThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has implemented a real-time northern light prediction map for each hemisphere.
This map gives a forecast, for the next 30 to 40 minutes, showing the size of the aurora and the places in the world where it can be observed. The probability as well as the intensity of the light is represented by a gradient of colors (going from green to red).

Note: In order to observe the northern lights, it is essential that the sky is cloudfree. Therefore it is important to cross the data below with the one of the local weather forcast.

Here you'll find the last update of the map.

Prevision with the Kp-index

What’s the Kp-index?

The Kp-index is the global geomagnetic storm index. It ranges from 0 to 9, where a value of 0 means that there is very little geomagnetic activity and a value of 9 means extreme geomagnetic storming. Depending on your geomagnetic latitude (were you are), and on the Kp value, you will know if there is any chance for you to see an aurora.

How does the Kp-index work?

The table below shows you until which latitude you will be able to observe the Auroral Oval, depending on the Kp strength.

Kp Geomagnetic latitude Auroral activity
Kp 0  66,5° or higher  Very low
Kp 1  64,5°  Low
Kp 2  62,5°  Low
Kp 3  60,4°  Unsettled
Kp 4  58,3°  Active
Kp 5  56,3°  Minor Storm
Kp 6  54,2°  Moderate storm
Kp 7  52,2°  Strong storm
Kp 8  50,1°  Severe storm
Kp 9  48,1° or less  Extreme storm

Example: With a Kp 0; you can observe an aurora in Tromso in Norway, with a Kp 5; you can see the aurora all the way to Edinburg in Scotland, and with a Kp9 (the maximum that is possible), you can view an aurora all the way to Marseille in France.

Prevision for the next 3 days

Carte de prévision d’aurores en temps réel – Ovation Prime Model

Useful links

Note: This list, gives some interesting/practical links (in alphabetical order) in relation with the observation and the understanding of the aurora phenomena. This list is not exhaustive, and you are very welcome to suggest new links through our contact form.

www.norway-lights.com
This website gives a 3 days-prevision in any town of Norway. Direct link to the Lofoten.

www.spaceweatherlive.com
You will find updated solar activity previsions, as well as auroral activity previsions, with clear explanations to understand the data. Multilingual website.

www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/Europ/
The official website of Alaska Fairbanks University, gives a 21 days forecast for auroral activity in both hemispheres, as well as some practical information. 

NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The prestigious American agency provides most of “space forecasts” data used by the worldwide scientific community.

Smartphone apps’:

Northern Eye : is a free app' that allows you to follow the aurora forecasts for the 3 next days (with information on the Kp, Bz, the solar windspeed, etc).

How To Photograph The Northern Lights

I am Martin and I have spend over 2 months in Lofoten in 2017 to capture photos of northern lights - one of the best shows you can see on the sky.
You can see the results here on my website: www.martin.kulhavy.info

aurora martin3

Tips and tricks:

1) equipment

Astrophotography is demanding high performance from your camera and lens. You will get best results with interchangeable lens cameras (mirrorless or single-lens reflex camera). Use wide and bright (low aperture number) lenses. There are several lenses specialized for astrophotography which could be also useful for "normal" landscape photography. I use Samyang 14mm f/2.4. My other recommendation would be Samyang 14mm f/2.8, IRIX 15mm f/2.4 or an expensive Sigma 14mm f/1.8. Spare battery, tripod and cable release is also necessary.

2) Check the weather and space forecast

Clear sky is essential for your success, so save your energy in cloudy days to be ready for clear nights. Check the short term forecast on yr.no. Detailed view will give you indication for the cloud level. Spaceweather.com or Aurora mobile app helps with forecasting of solar and aurora activity. Lofoten is north enough for observing lights even at low KP indexes (2 or 3). Higher KP index is obviously better, but it doesn't guarantee anything.

3) Location

Find your location in advance. Look for places with good view to the north. There is no general rule for this point. You can find one many hikes on this website (www.hiking-lofoten.net). I recommend to stick with your plan in the evening, You don't want to spent the precious time while driving between locations. Be patient, sometimes lights appear for only a brief moment after few hours of waiting. Keep walking around your tripod in winter to stay warm.

4) Shooting tricks

Shoot on Manual settings. My general settings are ISO 3200, f/2.4, t=3s and then I adjust time shutter speed accordingly to the situation. If the lights are weak, then I go to t=8s, stronger light can reduce the time to 1s. Please note that you must recalculate the shutter speed if your minimal aperture number is higher. Example: if your minimal aperture number is f/3.5, then your times should be between 2 and 15 seconds. You can reduce then to 1-8 seconds by increasing ISO to 6400, but your images will be noisier. The brightness changes rapidly and it is important to change your shutter speed immediately to get rightly exposed photos.
Shoot panoramas. Even 14mm wide lens is often not wide enough for aurora oval. All my photos are full 360 panoramas. There are many websites describing details of 360 photography. Fell free to contact me if you have any questions.

Martin Kulhavy

aurora martin1

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