The dazzling Northern Lights
On a dark, cloudless night, you might just see a wondrous light phenomenon in the sky. During the winter, the Northern Lights dance in the sky above Utsjoki on as many as three nights out of four.
The proper scientific name for the Northern Lights, aurora borealis, dates from the 1600s. The name literally means “red dawn of the North”. The Finns call this extraordinary display of light “revontulet”, or ”fox fires”, based on an old Finnish folktale of a fire fox striking rocks and fells with its bushy tail, throwing sparks into the air. According to an ancient Saami legend, the Northern Lights appear when the fox brushes the snowy landscapes with its tail.
The Northern Lights are actually created by solar wind, which is a stream of charged particles ejected from the corona of the sun. The Northern Lights appear in the sky when these charged particles hit the Earth’s atmosphere, are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field and gravitate towards the poles.
There are a few different types of Northern Lights. An arc in the northern sky that runs from east to west and faintly resembles a rainbow is called ”Pohjan Portti”, or ”Gate to the North”. The sky can be all but covered in Northern Lights in a matter of seconds.
If the Northern Lights are directly above you, you are witnessing something called a Northern Light Corona. In this phenomenon, vertically running string-like shapes seem to merge into each other on the horizon.
Your best chance of seeing Northern Lights is at around eight o’clock in the evening. However, if you do not feel sleepy later on and wish to have a quiet moment, you also have a fair chance of witnessing this amazing display of light at around midnight. Auroras Now! is a space weather service maintaining by Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) to help watching auroras in Finland.
The Northern Lights continue their stately dance in the northern sky for several months each year. They are at their most spectacular in late winter if the skies remain relatively cloudless. This is also the best time for skiing, so why not go for a night-time walk or a skiing trip and watch the sky catch fire! Also the autumn is nice time to spot the auroras and it’s also less cold then.