Lately, the northern lights have been visible above our campus in Lappeenranta several times: check out these beautiful pictures on Instagram.
My sleep schedule took a big hit, but I was lucky enough to see them. It was beautiful – something that even the best pictures or videos can’t really describe. The only solution: you have to try and see them for yourself! In this post, I will try and help you find the northern lights.The northern lights are visible most often between September and March. In southern Finland, they are visible about 10–20 nights per year. In northern Lapland, you might be able to see the lights just about every other clear night during the winter months. In summer, you won’t usually see auroras, partly because the nights are very short. Above the Arctic circle, the sun doesn’t set at all for part of the summer.
If you really want to see the northern lights, your chances are best if you go to Lapland. Once COVID-19 allows it, you could go on an organised trip. Of course, you can always plan your own trip as well. There are overnight trains going all the way to Kolari, and there are long-distance bus connections (e.g. Onnibusor Matkahuolto) from Rovaniemi and other places to cities even further up north. If you’re only staying in Finland for a short period of time, going north might be the only way you’ll be able to see the northern lights. That being said, the northern lights are sometimes visible in Lappeenranta too. Regardless of your location, it’s a good idea to look at forecasts. One of the apps I use is the My Aurora app; it gives pop-up notifications when there’s a chance you can see the northern lights at your location – very useful! The app is available for both Android and iOS, and you can download it here.
When you get a notification, go outside and check if you can see the stars. That way, you know the sky is clear, but you can also check how much light pollution there is. The more stars you see, the less light pollution and the higher the chance of seeing auroras. Sometimes the northern lights are visible overhead, but they might also just be visible on the horizon. It might be worth going to a lake or another place with a view.
Make sure you wear enough warm clothing and bring a thermos with something hot. If it’s a clear winter night, it will probably be very cold outside. Be patient! If you don’t see auroras during a nocturnal adventure, there will always be a next time.
Good luck hunting!
This blog is written by Yannick Schuurmans from the Netherlands, a student in the Bachelor’s Programme in Technology and Engineering Science.