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Introduction to Aurora needed

Ashwin Tyson

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Hello guys. I'm new here. I'm planning for a trip to Svalbard next year. I want to experience the northern lights at its peak.

What month is best to visit there?

How bright are those to the naked eye?

I see alot of people say blue and red colors will also show up, but I see mostly photos of this with specific settings. When recorded with video it looks like a faint light. What should be my expectations?


And what metrics do I track for the highest solar activity or the best northern lights?


If someone can provide some information on the above and point me to some good resources regarding it that would be great.


I apologise in advance if this is not the right place to post this. I'm new here.

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Another place to start is our help section with plenty information to learn the basics.

first of all, Svalbard is pretty far north and above the Van Allen belt. The Van Allen belt is the place where the magnetic field lines of the Earth go inside our atmosphere. It’s in the Van Allen belt that the Aurora originates from, so this means the further away from there, the higher the required Kp should be. So for Svalbard it should be Kp2-ish. If you look at the current oval you’ll see that Svalbard is above the auroral oval. So why not pick a location that’s just right under the auroral oval? By doing that you’ll increase the odds of seeing the Aurora even when there is no coronal hole or CME.

blue and red color: no. Red only during intense storms. Purple yes but mostly green. The color of the Aurora varies with the height of the Aurora and the particles it collided with.

solar max is still a few years away and even then it ain’t a guarantee that just during your stay a CME arrival would be expected. A few months upfront you could pinpoint a date where a recurring coronal hole might be active to increase the odds. But for an intense storm like in September you would need to act so fast to get there in time (30 hours it took for that CME to arrive). CME impacts aren’t always Earth directed, and not always deliver strong storms so I wouldn’t bet on that when planning a trip.

a few years ago in the solar minimum I planned a trip to see the northern lights, yes solar minimum! I’ve seen the Aurora for three nights during my 6 day stay, the other days where cloudy. I planned it when a CH would potentially arrive to increase my odds but still, in Kiruna where I was I only needed slight southward Bz to see the phenomenon. It wasn’t all intense but still a great display.

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