Many people prefer the DIY option when it comes to hunting the aurora. To increase your chances, it’s all about your location. Check the Norway aurora forecast a day or so prior to your trip and be flexible if the forecast is low. Just as important is the weather forecast—although it might seem that you can reach out and touch the lights, any cloud cover will make the aurora impossible to see.
The Aurora Service produces hourly aurora forecasts on its website using real-time solar wind data from NASA, but also daily and three-day advance forecasts. For weather, Norwegian website YR has a reliable cloud-cover forecast.
The best times of year to see the northern lights in Norway are September-October and February-March. The winter months tend to be too cloudy, while in the summer it simply doesn’t get dark enough. Contrary to popular belief, the lights are “on” year-round but cannot be seen unless it is pitch black. When you have found a good day and a good cloud-free location, head to high ground as far away from city lights as possible.
Tromsø is one of the world’s best cities for northern lights spotting. Although good displays can be enjoyed from the city center, fainter displays will be harder to see because of the light pollution from the city. Many head to the shores of the Prestvannet lake at the top of Tromsøya island, or to the quiet beaches on Kvaløya island.
When it comes to clothing, pick function over fashion. Layers of thin clothing, preferably at least one wool, with a thick winter coat, are essential, as are gloves, hat, warm socks, and winter boots. You will likely be standing in the snow for several hours, after all.
To capture the lights on film, select a long shutter speed and a low aperture. Compact cameras and basic smartphone cameras are unlikely to be good enough to capture the lights, but do check if your device has a fireworks mode, which often helps.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Norway.