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Aurora borealis south of NLI. 



Clouds glow above the Galaxy Tower.



Guests watch the aurora from the Galaxy Tower.



Looking towards the Blue Lagoon. Sometimes you can see the aurora from your room.

WHERE AND WHEN?

Where?
You can see the Aurora Borealis from our from door, The Galaxy Tower, the patio, anywhere around the hotel, and sometimes from your room!

When?
From the end of August until mid April, when there is night. Space weather conditions permitting. 

For unexplained reasons, it is frequently extra special during the weeks before and after both fall and spring equinoxes.

Winter months with snow add a luminosity that is magical.

What time?
Usually after dinner. 

Prime time is 21:00 ~ 24:00, but it can be earlier or later. 

It's not possible to predict the exact hour or location, only the probability of something happening, and possibly where on Earth at that time.



Auroras are usually green, but on special occasions, also red, purple, yellow and blue like these shot from along our safari route.

SPACE WEATHER NOW

Click here for the Auroral Kp levels now

The image you will see is not the Aurora, but the % possibility of Auroras, based on magnetic disturbances of earth's shield.

Click here for the current space weather.



Photographing the Aurora Borealis at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon on a moonless September night, with the Bardabunga volcanic eruption glowing 90+kms away.



An auroral explosion–the star streaks and some blur is from shooting handheld without a tripod and a longish exposure.



This picture of Max is for real ~ it's not set up or photoshopped – 01:50 AM.


AURORA INFO AND ARCTIC FAQs

How can I be alerted about Aurora activity?
Please add your room number to the call list at the front desk.

Does solar activity increase the chance of seeing the Aurora?
Solar flares, bursts, and CME Coronal Mass Ejections and explosions greatly increase chances of seeing the Aurora. 

Stay tuned at spaceweather.com

Are there Aurora Forecast apps?
Yes, and there are a few helpful ones for free. New ones keep appearing, but we have not found the perfect one yet, so try these 3:

Aurora
Aurora Forecast
Auroral Forecast by the Kjell Heriksen Observatory


What are the stars and constellations behind the aurora?
This is our favorite SkyGuide that can show you.

It works without gps or cell networks, so its great for remote places, like Krysuvik.

Is the Aurora Oval and the Arctic Circle the same?
No. The Aurora is not parallel or directly related to the Arctic Circle, but their paths do cross.

What does Arctic mean?
The word arctic means "bear" in ancient Greek. It refers to the constellations of the Great Bear and Little Bear, which you can find in the night sky near the North Star. The North Star, currently Polaris, in the Alpha Ursae Minoris, or Little Bear Constellation, is also known as the Lode Star or Pole Star, and is part of the Little Dipper, 431 light years away.

What is the Arctic Circle?
A concept. The Arctic Circle is an circle of latitude drawn by mapmakers at 66° 33'44" north (depending on the earth's wobble) the northernmost point where you can still see the sun on winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, December 21, if you were looking south. It is the same point where the sun does not set, remaining visible on the horizon at midnight on the longest day of the year, summer solstice – June 21.

The Arctic circle is moving north at an average rate of 15m per year.

Where is the Arctic Region?

The Arctic Region is the area where the average temperature is below 10º C during the warmest month of the year, July.

The Northern Light Inn is in the southern region of Iceland, still part of the North Temperate Zone, which extends south to the Tropic Of Cancer.

The Tropic of Cancer at 23.5º N is the farthest north that the sun can appear directly overhead, and the title of Henry Miller's novel.

In Iceland, we say the Arctic Circle runs through the middle of priest's bed on Grimsey Island, north of Akureyri. But not for long.

Compare the Arctic Circle vs Arctic Region: the circle is the dotted blue line, the region is the red line.


Arctic Region map courtesy of Wiki/CIA/NGS

SCIENCE & GEEKY STUFF

EXPLANATION OF THE AURORA BOREALIS

PHYSICS
"The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) are the result of electrons colliding with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. (Protons cause faint and diffuse aurora, usually not easily visible to the human eye.)

The electrons are energized through acceleration processes in the downwind tail (night side) of the magnetosphere and at lower altitudes along auroral field lines.

The accelerated electrons follow the magnetic field of Earth down to the Polar Regions where they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

In these collisions, the electrons transfer their energy to the atmosphere thus exciting the atoms and molecules to higher energy states. When they relax back down to lower energy states, they release their energy in the form of light. This is similar to how a neon light works. 

DISTANCE ABOVE
The aurora typically forms 80 to 500 km above Earth’s surface.

WHERE
Earth’s magnetic field guides the electrons such that the aurora forms two ovals approximately centered at the magnetic poles.

During major geomagnetic storms these ovals expand away from the poles such that aurora can be seen ... [halfway to the equator, and on rare occasions, as fas south as Hawaii.] 

SHAPES
Aurora comes in several different shapes.

Often the auroral forms are made of many tall rays that look much like a curtain made of folds of cloth. During the evening, these rays can form arcs that stretch from horizon to horizon.

Late in the evening, near midnight, the arcs often begin to twist and sway, just as if a wind were blowing on the curtains of light. 

At some point, the arcs may expand to fill the whole sky, moving rapidly and becoming very bright.

This is the peak of what is called an auroral substorm.

Then in the early morning the auroral forms can take on a more cloud-like appearance. These diffuse patches often blink on and off repeatedly for hours, then they disappear as the sun rises in the east.

BEST OBSERVED WHERE
The best place to observe the aurora is under an oval shaped region between the north and south latitudes of about 60 and 75 degrees. 

At these polar latitudes, the aurora can be observed more than half of the nights of a given year.

When space weather activity increases and more frequent and larger storms and substorms occur, the aurora extends equatorward.

During large events, the aurora can be observed as far south as the US, Europe, and Asia. During very large events, the aurora can be observed even farther from the poles.

Of course, to observe the aurora, the skies must be clear and free of clouds. It must also be dark so during the summer months at auroral latitudes, the midnight sun prevents auroral observations.

SPEEED & ENERGY
Solar winds carrying charged plasma particles-free electrons and protons traveling between 400-1,000 km/sec (1,4M ~3,6M Kmh, 900K ~2,2M mph) and has been recorded at 10,000 km/sec. 

It take about one day to reach earth, collides with the magnetosphere, and upon a magnetic reconnection of the solar wind's passing tails, the energy snaps back and charges gas atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere concentrated in the geomagnetic fields. 

The energy is released by quantum leaps which generate light: oxygen produces mostly green light, and nitrogen red light. Other solar wind streams are milder and slower, taking 7-10 days to reach the earth.

The Aurora Borealis generates up to an estimated one million megawatts of magnetic energy. 

PS
Excuse me, but how did they calculate that? Please read this wiki page.

AUROROA PHOTOGRAPHY

Can I photograph the Aurora?
Of course, no need to go to the ISS. 

A tripod is almost always essential, and we have extras to loan you at reception. 

(With the Olympus E-M1 MarkIII, and the latest high ISO Sony, you can shoot the Milky Way and Auroras by hand.)

15 PRO TIPS

1. Use manual focus, set focus to infinity. 

2. Prefocus your auto focus lens.

3. Turn autofocus off.

4. Use the widest open aperture of your prime wide angle lens.

5. Start with your ISO at 1600, lower if possible.

6. Start with a 10 second exposure. Faster if possible.

7. Adjust all according to the intensity of the aurora, lens, etc.

8. A cable release, wireless shutter release, or self timer will help.

9. Have spare batteries and keep them warm in your pocket.

10. Prevent star streak.

Divide 500 by your focal length to get the longest possible exposure time without streaks. 

Divide 250 by your focal length if a high MPX camera.

11. Trust your histogram, not your preview. Previews are designed to deceive.

12. Always shoot RAW, if possible.

13. Stabilize your tripod in the wind. Iceland is very windy.

Step on a shock cord loop attached to your tripod for vibration free stability and anchoring in the windy Icelandic weather conditions. 

14. Be Ready. 
Brain freeze and cold fatigue seem to converge around magnetic midnight

And things happen fast, in all directions. 

Be rested and really ready. 

Trust me about this: the best aurora's I did not photograph, or photographed badly, happened because of not being ready.

15. Stay warm, enjoy the show, with or without taking a picture :-))