Northern Lights in Finland - All You Need to Know
The Northern Lights have mesmerised people throughout the ages. People from all over the world travel distances to witness the unique natural phenomenon, which in Finland is called revontulet (fox fires). As the legend claims, the colourful spectacle is created by an arctic fox running through the snow. By sweeping its magical tail back and forth, it creates sparks that rise to the sky and set it on fire. And the northern light is born!
What the Northern Lights really are and where do they come from?
Many ancient cultures including the Greeks, the Romans, the American and the Chinese have tried to explain the Northern Lights and the reasons behind them. The explanations range from mystical and spooky ones to optimistic and poetic.
We can, of course, choose to believe the fairy tales and prophecies but nowadays, we have a good scientific understanding of what the Northern Lights are and what causes them.
Every once in a while, the sun will spit out a concentration of electromagnetic matter that we commonly refer to as solar wind. This solar wind travels all the way to the Earth’s magnetic field and when it hits the field, the matter bounces back around the Earth. Read more about space weather here.
The poles, for example Lapland as part of the North Pole, are an exception in this case. The solar wind follows the magnetic field lines deeper towards the poles where it eventually hits our atmosphere and starts to react with atmospheric gases. This interaction generates energy in the particles, which we see as light; polar lights to be exact.
Origin isn’t the only ‘heavenly’ aspect of the Northern Lights
The more explanations people have, the more names are given to the sight. We’ve already mentioned fox fires (revontulet), which draw from the Finnish legend, and polar lights, deriving from the geographical location on Earth, where the lights appear in the first place. And as the phenomenon originates from the sun, it has a another suitable title – the aurora borealis.
The word ‘aurora’ comes from the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, who travelled from east to west to announce that the sunlight is coming. This also perfectly describes how the Northern Lights take their form, which is due to solar power. In addition, the ancient Romans described dawn (aurora) as a play of colours across the otherwise dark sky. Reminds you something else as well, doesn’t it?
(Dis)play of colours
If you think of the polar lights, what colour pops into your mind first? We’ll bet it’s green. And you’re right to think of this as the most common colour of aurora for two good reasons. First, the human eye identifies green easier than the shades of red or blue.
Secondly, the colours of the Northern Lights are determined by gases in the Earth’s atmosphere and on which altitudes the light occurs. Around 100 to 250 km, where the particles usually start to collide, oxygen is the main gas to react and this produces green light.
Higher in the atmosphere yellow and red occur while on lower altitudes pink, purple and blue light is produced from the reaction with nitrogen. However, aforementioned tend to be more difficult for the human eyes to see and distinguish. But don't be tricked. The lights might look within reach, but in reality, they form at altitudes of over 100km (more than 60 miles).
Nevertheless, the Northern Lights never tend to disappoint nor bore its audience, because they can form countless variations of colours and movements. It’s as if giant curtains of colourful light swing across the sky while stars shine between them as carefully embroidered gems – a sight one will never forget!
Flights to Lapland
See all Finnair's flights to Lapland here >>
Did you know, that:1) Lapland in Finland is right in the centre of the so-called aurora-zone so it’s a must-go to catch the Northern Lights in Finland.
2) In Lapland there are plenty of villages and small cities that are surrounded by wild open spaces. There you’ll have a minimal amount of light pollution as well as good infrastructure and tour operators that can help you with hunting down this spectacular sight.
3) According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the best time to see the northern lights in Finland is around 22nd of September and 20th of March.
4) Getting to Lapland is easy with us. Finnair flies to Lapland daily. Find out more about our comfortable connections to several destinations in Lapland, including Ivalo, Kittilä and Rovaniemi.