The northern lights are best experienced in the darkest possible environment. As far away as possible from the light pollution of human civilisation. Also, it helps to be in a landscape away from urban development. The coast is a good place, not least Bjuröklubb and Kågnäsudden.
Galileo Galilei gave the northern lights their latin name, Aurora Borealis. Aurora is the Roman goddess of dawn. Her siblings are Sol and Luna, the sun and the moon. The Greeks also considered Aurora to be the mother of Anemoi, the god of winds. Borealis comes from the greek word for a northern wind and can be traced to another god of antiquity, Borea. Borea is often associated with wild horses and a raging temper. In short, the natural carrier of a cold, northern wind. In a sense it could be said that Galileo really hit the nail on the head when he named this beautiful light display after these two gods. Light and untamed force.
The scientific explanation, however, is a different one entirely and not all that easy to explain. The lights are caused by particles from solar flares that are pulled in by the Earth’s magnetosphere. When these particles reach the atmosphere, they collide with atoms and molecules that are “charged” or at least have their energy state altered. Different types of atoms create different light.
The most common type is green, caused by affected oxygen atoms at a height of approx. 100-140 kilometres. The red light is also related to oxygen but occurs at heights closer to 200 km, whilst violet and blue light comes from nitrogen ion reactions. The northern lights can be experienced from September (sometimes as early as August, when the autumn dark begins to fall), until April.
There is an idea that cold temperatures are required, but that’s not really true. However, a clear, starry night sky is of course crucial. Today, there are several excellent northern lights services who produce forecasts, predicting the chances of seeing the lights, based on solar flare activity. Look up!
The northern lights are created by solar flares. The more powerful the flare, the more spectacular the northern lights (as long as the night sky is clear). There are lots of good digital services that help you increase your chances of experiencing the northern lights. A favourite is the “Aurora Forecast” app, which can be downloaded from the app store.