Nature of the north The Northern Lights

Sodankylä is an ideal place to watch and photograph the Northern Lights: the nature is unspoilt and there is little light pollution.

The fire fox makes the Northern Lights happen

The Finnish word for the Northern Lights, revontuli (“fox fire”), refers to a fox. According to the ancient belief recorded by Topelius, the Northern Lights appear when the fire fox runs across the fell and whips the snowdrift with its tail so hard that sparks appear in the sky.

The large municipality of Sodankylä is mainly free of light pollution. Even around the city centre, there is so little light pollution that it is possible to observe the Northern Lights there as well. When looking for a place to watch the Northern Lights, please note that it is not safe to go on ice (especially River Kitinen)! Look for a place as spacious and dark as possible, away from light pollution, with unobstructed views of the northern skyline! Within walking distance of the city centre, the best Northern Lights spotting spots are, for example, the Kemijärventie bridge and the Pappilanniemi coastal route, which are kept clear of snow. In winter, you can also climb to the top of the sledding hill on the Sports park, which also offers a view !

Did you know? Contrary to popular belief, hard frosts do not cause the Northern Lights. However, when the temperatures are very cold the sky is often cloudless, which makes seeing the Northern Lights easier.

Powerful instances of the Northern Lights can even produce audible sounds such as murmurs and bangs. This show of light and sound is an unbelievable experience in the otherwise dim and silent Lapland nature.

The Northern Lights can appear and disappear in seconds, but normally their dance lasts a few minutes, even hours, sometimes weakening and sometimes strengthening. When hunting for the Northern Lights, please prepare yourself by dressing warmly.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute’s website and the Space Weather Centre has a Northern Lights forecast which you can follow. If the forecast is good and it’s a beautiful Northern Lights photograph you’re after, try heading for the Lokka dam: there you can photograph the fires of the sky dancing above the lake and the Nattanen fells.

At the start of the winter, before the snow, good Northern Lights photography spots include the Ilmakkiaapa birdwatching tower, the Siurunmaa birdwatching tower and the viewing tower along Paavo’s Path.

While visiting Luosto you have access to Aurora Alert Realtime northern lights alarm system, free of charge! Other useful Northern Lights applications are My Aurora Forecast and Aurora Labs: Aurora Forecast.

Did you know, that you can learn more about northern lights in Sodankylä all year round? See more details about Arctic Academy.

Please note that..

If you are driving a car: When stopping to watch and photograph the Northern Lights or other nature in Lapland, always leave your car in a safe place where it will not disturb other traffic.

If you are walking: Please do not walk on ice or cross-country skiing tracks!

Tips for photographing the Northern Lights:

  1. Use a camera that allows manual adjustment.
  2. Use a wide-angle lens.
  3. Use a high ISO value (eg. ISO 800 or more) to give you adequate exposure.
  4. Use the highest possible aperture (minimum f-number) to get more light into the camera.
  5. Use long exposure times to capture the Northern Lights.
  6. To avoid camera shake, place the camera on a tripod or use other stabilization methods.
  7. Autofocus can be difficult when capturing the Northern Lights, so use manual focus to ensure sharp images.
  8. Be patient! The Northern Lights can come and go quickly, so be prepared to wait.

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