Seeing aurora is the main purpose why I wanted to go to Iceland. Everything that has been written on my journal as a bucket list or resolution has a special place in my heart. This journey I planned with Damar couple of months ago as we shared the same dream: witnessing aurora with our bare eyes. It was even better when in between the day of buying the ticket and the departure day, we decided to date. Nice to know that my partner and I are in the same direction and has the same wish.
We are really lucky that in the 2nd day of our stay we can already witness the aurora even just a little. The tricky part of seeing aurora is that ones’ eyes have to be really sensitive and someone needs to really into it and keep on checking the forecast. Fortunately, we have Damar in our group 🙂 He is really concerned and did a lot of research until he could see where was the aurora even if it’s not that visible with our eyes. Aurora can be visible only in the darkness and around midnight and after. If it was not because of Damar, I am not sure we could have this wonderful experience. Although, there is of course Northern light tour in Iceland that will guide you in seeing the aurora, but we did not want that.
The aurora activity when we were there was only in level 2-4 out of 9. This is already good, the scientists who predict the aurora activity are very coutious about their predictions. Most of the year it never go up above 4. It was an incredible experience. Something that I will always remember, even thought it could not be captured by camera.
Here are some tips from Damar, at least how he prepared for it:
- Check www.vedur.is for the forecast, what you need to see from this is the aurora activity and the cloud coverage (see below). The one on the right is the aurora activity and the map is the cloud coverage. Bear in mind that the aurora activity shown here is per day. So we actually didn’t know whether the activity was 5 in early Sunday 01:00 AM or late night 11:00 PM. You can scroll below the map to see the cloud on your location within a certain period of time. You can also see the moon phase, of course dead moon is better than a full moon. Full moon will hinder your sight of the aurora. We saw the biggest activity when it was level 4, we had no cloud above us, and it was on a dead moon. Although we also saw it when it was just level 2.
- He downloaded 2 apps in his iphone which basically do the same thing. They are called Aurora Forecast and Aurora (I downloaded the free version, it is enough). What these two apps provided but not the vedur.is is the exact aurora activity per 15 minutes for the next 1 hour. This was very convenient, we went out looking when the aurora activity is above 2 for the next hour.
- This is perhaps the most important tip, just go out! The chance of you seeing the aurora is significantly higher outside than inside a house. We drove to somewhere where there are very little city lights if the aurora activity is above 2 and the sky is clear. Then just look north because the aurora should be there.
- There is cctv outdoor (earth cam), where you can see from inside what the sky looks like outside. But it’s limited and no freedom to see the surroundings. Damar did not end up using this that much
- Have your clothes ready in case you need to get out of the house to catch the aurora in the midnight
- Prepare your camera, we used DSLR which capture more light so it’s more visible in the camera than with eyes. If you understand a little bit on how to use the DSLR camera, Damar used manual mode with high aperture of f4.5 and long exposure of 25 seconds, and of course a tripod to make your camera steady during those 25 seconds. I tried with my Iphone and it failed big time
- Oh and you might want to plan something special for your loved one like how Damar did to me…….. Go on to the Aurora story