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Bright Future for Northern Lights

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Bright Future for Northern Lights

Northern lights, November 18.

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Sævar Helgi Bragason, Iceland’s number one astronomy enthusiast, and head of the Astronomy Association of Seltjarnarnes, says there is no truth to rumors that the northern lights may disappear for a few years.

Sævar explained to RÚV that the activity of northern lights always fluctuates. It is related to so-called sunspot cycles, meaning that the sun’s activity varies and reaches a peak every 11 years or so, and a low in between. During the lowest activity level, the sun gives forth somewhat fewer charged particles, or solar wind, which creates the northern lights.

“So, when the sun is at a low, the wind is not as strong, which reduces a little bit the activity of the northern lights, but, still, your see the northern lights anyway almost every day in Iceland in areas where northern lights are the most common, during the whole sun spot cycle, all these 11 years.”

He explained that once the sun reaches a peak in its activity, which was, for example, in 2014, then the northern lights activity is at a maximum for one to three years thereafter. As a result, this winter and the next should be very good for viewing the northern lights. After that, the activity decreases somewhat, although that still leaves us with great shows of the northern lights once to twice a week, in between the classical bows we see almost throughout the year. The difference, he said, lies mainly in the frequency of the most spectacular shows, where the lights dance in the sky with full force.

Sævar stated the best time to view the northern lights is generally close to fall or spring equinox: the end of August, September and October, as well as March and April, are the best months. Contrary to common belief, the least active time, he claimed, is usually December and January.

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