Why the Northern Lights Happen, and When to See Them
The Northern Lights have fascinated humans since they first spotted them.
In cave drawings that date back almost 30,000 years, swirling colors symbolized the spectacular nighttime show. Back then, they were explained with myths and legends. It wasn’t until the 1900s that scientists began to understand the phenomenon behind the spectacle.
Over the past few years, travel to Iceland to view the Northern Lights has grown more and more popular. Aurora spotting season in Iceland runs from October until March, although the natural phenomenon has been spotted as early as August and as late as April.
But those who trek to the northern country in hopes of spotting the aurora borealis are not guaranteed a view. And predicting the Northern Lights remains an impossible scientific feat. But Icelandair has developed a tool to help travelers better predict exactly what kind of sky show they’re in for if they visit.
The airline’s new website features a three-day solar forecast, which shows travelers the Kp index at different times of day around Iceland. The Kp index measures geomagnetic activity—the thing that gives the Northern Lights their color.
And for those who aren’t planning a trip to Iceland soon, the website also has an interactive feature that helps travelers better understand exactly what factors contribute to a fantastic Northern Lights show.
Visitors to the site can manipulate the animated sky and see directly how Kp index, altitude and oxygen/nitrogen influence the aurora borealis.
For those extra eager to view the northern lights, Icelandair recommends trying to book a flight after dark as the best views of the aurora borealis are from higher altitudes.