Northern Lights put on a show

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UPDATED: Meteorologists and space experts forecast an especially spectacular appearance of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) on Tuesday, linked to what they call the “strongest solar storm” in more than six years. The Northern Lights could be seen over most of the country where the weather was clear, and are likely to reappear throughout this winter and next.

The Northern LIghts in action last winter over Northern Norway. PHOTO: John Stenersen

It’s relatively rare for the Northern Lights (called nordlys in Norwegian) to be seen as far south as Oslo, and cloudy weather hindered their appearance over the capital. They were seen many other places, though, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) could offer a collection of photos from the unique show (external link, in Norwegian).

Astrophysicist Knut Jørgen Ødegaard, arguably Norway’s most enthusiastic astronomer, said the solar storm already led to “outbreaks” of the Northern Lights both last week and during the weekend and one on Tuesday morning that lit up the skies Tuesday afternoon and evening.

“The outbreak … set the stage for a real Northern Lights show when the new gas cloud reaches us,” Ødegaard told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

He noted that after a relatively calm period over the past 11 years, the sun has become “much more active,” with outbreaks leading to solar storms far more frequent and stronger. If gas clouds from the solar eruptions reach the earth’s atmosphere, its magnetic field will steer the clouds towards polar areas and they’ll light up with their characteristic green waves of color across the skies.

Ødegaard said that not only would the Northern Lights be visible in southern Norway, they may be seen further south over Europe as well.

More frequent appearances of the Northern Lights are also expected over the next few years. “They’ll be more active, more colourful, more movement,” Pål Brekke of Norsk Romsenter (The Norwegian Space Center) told NRK. Prospects are literally bright, he said, for Northern Lights tourism.

Some players are also cashing in. Next winter is expected to offer the strongest appearances of the Northern Lights in 50 years, and Trygve Nygård, one of the most active arrangers of Northern Lights tours in Northern Norway, is ready.

“The Northern Lights are a major attraction, many people travel here to see them,” Nygård told newspaper Aftenposten from his base in Alta. Truls Lynne Hansen of the Tromsø Geofysiske Observatorium confirmed that viewing can be best along the coast of Troms and Finnmark counties.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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