About the northern light

Recommended Equipment

Tripod

Good Camera

Wide angle lens

Spare Camera battery

Warm clothes

Don´t forget warm gloves

Isolated camerabag

Extra memory card

For many, just viewing the northern lights is a life-long dream, and to capture them with a camera is both a thrilling and awe inspiring experience.

It was only 100 years ago that scientists discovered that the sun was responsible for the aurora. We have come a long way in our understanding of space science since then. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Heliophysics Research Division has made significant efforts in trying to better understand the sun and its effects on Earth. Scientists have engaged in collaborative efforts to monitor how, why, and when solar storms happen, and we aurora photographers benefit from the knowledge they share.

The aurora are caused by solar storms that throw huge numbers of fast-moving electrons and protons away from the sun in a twisting mass of electric and magnetic fields. These microscopic particles typically take two days to travel the 150 million kilometers from the sun to Earth.
These energetic electrons and protons initially move past Earth for several thousands of miles before traveling back along Earth’s magnetic field lines into Earth’s atmosphere. Then, through a process similar to that of a neon sign, they collide with the atoms and molecules of Earth’s atmosphere to create the light we call the aurora. Not all solar storms produce aurora. Only if the solar storm’s magnetic field couples with Earth’s magnetic field, do we have a chance to see auroras.

Even the smartest aurora scientists will tell you that predicting the aurora presence on any given night is far from a perfect science and includes many changing variables. Progress has been made however, and many resources that help give some idea of aurora activity exist on the Web, just like on the main page of www.auroracity.is

Artist’s depiction of solar wind striking Earth’s magnetosphere (size and distance not to scale)