The dark season is rapidly approaching. Don’t let it get you down; instead, pick up a new hobby that helps you appreciate the hidden beauty of the dark. One such pastime is, of course, aurora watching.

Kerttu, the founder of KoeKainuu, is an experienced aurora chaser who has worked for years as an aurora guide and organized Aurora Hunter courses. In this article, she answers some of the most common questions from beginners.

This picture is from Kuhmo in December 2020. The freezing lake sang ominously, and the auroras danced in the sky. An amazing experience!

Can you see Northern Lights in Kainuu?

Yes, you can, and surprisingly often! Especially around the equinoxes, the Earth’s position allows auroras to be seen even south of Lapland. During the equinoxes, the Earth’s magnetic field is in an optimal position to receive particles from the sun. These particles create auroras when they hit the atmosphere.

Based on a rough estimate from my own experience, I would say you can see auroras in Kainuu at least a couple of times a month.

The current solar activity, which varies in 11-year cycles, is in the rising phase. Therefore, in the coming years, auroras will be seen more and more frequently even at the latitude of Kainuu. When the activity peaks next time in 2025, we will witness very impressive displays!

Where can I see auroras?

In Kainuu, auroras don’t rise directly overhead as often as in Lapland, but they are mostly seen in the northern horizon. Therefore, you need a place with an unobstructed view of the northern sky.

Additionally, the location should be free from light pollution. Make sure your location is not south of any city or ski resort.

Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent aurora watching spots in Kainuu! For example, the southern shore of a lake is an excellent choice, and luckily, we have plenty of lakes here. Open fields, marshes, or the tops of hills can also provide good views.

One excellent spot is Lentuankoski in Kuhmo, along with Lake Lentua nearby. In Kajaani, aurora enthusiasts often gather in Paltaniemi. If you’re vacationing in Ukkohalla or Paljakka, head to the Mustarinda observation tower.

During the biggest displays, it’s easy to feel small. Photo: Michail-Angelos Tzoumas

When is the right time to expect auroras?

Auroras are created by charged particles emitted by the sun. Predicting space weather is not the same as predicting Earth’s weather. Long-term forecasts, especially, are very difficult to make.

Aurora hunters use forecasts and satellite data to know when they will appear. You can check a rough forecast for the next 27 days here.

The higher the Kp index, the better the chances of seeing auroras. In Kainuu, Kp 4, sometimes even 3, is enough to see them. The higher the index, the higher auroras rise in the sky and the faster they move.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the Kp index is only a rough guide. On the evening you plan to go out, watch solar wind meters. From them, you can see, among other things, the speed of the solar wind, its density, the orientation of the magnetic field, and much more! When you know how to read the values, you can know the exact moment when auroras will appear, with an accuracy of up to ten minutes!

Does it sound difficult? In the Aurora Hunter course, you’ll learn the secrets of the meters, explained in an easy-to-understand way.

How do I take good photos of auroras?

The best tool for photographing auroras is, of course, a DSLR camera, but it’s also possible to photograph them with a compact camera or smartphone. The most important thing is that you can choose the settings manually.

You also need a tripod or some other stable surface because nighttime photography requires long exposure times, lasting several seconds. It’s impossible to shoot handheld under such circumstances.

The very first Aurora Hunter course participants had incredible luck! The auroras appeared just as we began the practical training session.

The camera settings depend on many factors, such as the brightness of the auroras and the speed of their movement, but also the phase of the moon can affect the settings a lot! You can try setting the parameters like this: ISO 1600 f 4 ss 15 sec. Also, use a remote shutter release or a two-second timer, as your camera will shake slightly when you press the shutter button.

Aurora hunting is an extremely rewarding hobby that you can easily get hooked on. Beware – you might lose your sleep chasing these celestial masterpieces. But it’s definitely worth it! After completing the Aurora Hunter course, you’ll avoid many beginner pitfalls and can start taking amazing photos right away. You can order a private course for your group or participate in an open course.

Don’t expect a boring lecture because my teaching style is very easygoing! You’ll hear about various mishaps that have happened on aurora trips.


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Course participants photographing auroras at Hotel Kalevala’s shore in March 2022.

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