As someone who is a hobbyist astrophotographer, I’ve got a laundry list of astronomical events to photograph. Nebulas, Galaxies, star clusters, eclipses, and of course, aurorae! Where do the best aurorae happen? Near the north and south poles, so naturally it makes sense to visit those places where there is a bit of civilization, far north or south, with clear skies. The two places that are on my top list, outside of northern regions in my home country of Canada, are Iceland and Norway. Here are some reasons why:
The aurora borealis are legendary in these parts of the world. But why? wouldn’t it make more sense for me to go to the north pole? Well aside from the lack of accessibility and difficulty of surviving up there, the poles are not the best place to see aurorae. This is because the ionization of the solar wind that creates this gorgeous glow occurs around the poles, not above them. The middle picture above shows a ring structure around the pole. The stronger the influx of solar wind particles, the further away from the poles we see the light show.
The best spots to observe moderate auroral activity tends to be just above the arctic circle, right where Iceland and northern Norway reside. This is why they are the best places to see auroral activity overhead and across the entire sky.
I also love foreign culture and geographic landscapes, so in addition to the aurora, Iceland and Norway top my list for amazing features like fjords, volcanoes, and fault lines. I’m going to go book that vacation now, I just can’t wait any longer!