My name is Pablo and I am a Spanish Exchange Student, currently finishing my Computer Engineering degree at TUAS. When I think of what made me choose to do Erasmus in Finland rather than in another European country, one of the things that comes to mind is the Northern Lights.
As someone coming from what I now consider the very warm and sunny south, the Northern Lights came across something mysterious and only seen in movies.
My first experience with the Aurora is not what you would call a success. Wednesday at midnight, class the following day at 8 and reeeally tired. So when my friends told me the Lights were visible I thought “Well, it’s been only a month since I arrived and this is Finland. They probably happen every week on winter”. ***Buzzer sound*** Wrong!
Luckily, some weeks later they were active again. And even more luckily, they were pretty strong. As in, they hadn’t been this strong in a while. As in, even Finns were surprised. This time, I wasn’t going to miss them. Especially being photography one of my hobbies.
They were AMAZING. We took our bikes and went to an area with less city lights, a field next to Student Village. I had heard the term “dancing” before, but I had never thought they could really do it.
One thing less in my bucket list!
And now, some info for those who don’t know much about this light display:
The Aurora (Borealis, in the North) is a phenomenon caused by solar wind (geomagnetic storms). The visibility depends on various factors, but obviously, darkness is required (which is why in the winter months they are the most visible). The scale used for measurement is called the kp index and it goes from 0 to 9 (highest). From 5 upward they are strong enough to be seen in Turku.
There are several forecast websites and apps, but the problem is the accuracy. Solar storms are hard to predict more than two hours in advance and a high kp doesn’t necessarily mean that you will see the Northern Lights for sure. Nevertheless, the sun follows a cycle reaching its moment of highest solar activity (Solar Maximun) every 11 years. Last one was on 2014, so it is still pretty active.
To sum it up, I think the Aurora is one of those things you should see, at the very least, once in a lifetime.
Text & picture: Pablo de Andrés