Northern lights in Northern Norway

By Jaroslav Obu

Besides the scientific and educational experience, the workshop was very rich with different personal impressions. For participants who are not living in high latitudes, seeing the northern lights was a unique experience. During the conference I even heard senior scientists asking the people that are studying northern lights for a forecast.

The weather was mainly cloudy during the conference. Despite some moments of clear sky the aurora was unfortunately not visible. The predicted increase in geomagnetic activity did not happen because the solar wind blew just past the Earth. On the evening, just before boarding Hurtigruten, magnetometers showed some aurora activity. Few of us went up the hill in the search of darker spots, where we had a chance to see a green curtain gently dancing above the houses of Tromsø.

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The first days in Svolvær were cloudy and snowy so the beautiful Lofoten landscape turned white, but the sky remained grey. The third day of the workshop brought some hope with partly cloudy evening and slightly increased geomagnetic activity. Faint auroras were visible through hazy sky on Svinøya, where the disturbing strong city lights were not so strong. But then some clouds covered the sky again. To our surprise, green bands appeared on the sky again during the jam session of KAA band and we rushed out with only our slippers on to see the aurora that became stronger and before the clouds returned.

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I decided to try my luck the next evening and go slightly higher, away from the city lights. The weather forecast was promising that the sky would clear up late in the evening. The snow was getting deeper and deeper and soon I was trudging in a meter of snow. I came high enough so that the view over the city and nearby mountains was nice. Shortly before  midnight the forecast came true and the background of nearby mountains that were lit by city lights turned green. On thw way back, when hiking through fresh and soft snow, the northern lights came closer and were slowly dancing above mountains.

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The next evening we boarded Hurtigruten and were heading back to Tromsø and soon after leaving Svolvær we could see some northern lights dancing in the sky. These were soon hidden behind the clouds of snow showers. After midnight, close to Stokkmarknes, the sky was clear again and the aurora became brighter. While we were together spending the last evening on the deck the aurora was shining above us and showing the best performance right at the end of the workshop.

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