Icelanders as far south as the greater Reykjavík area were delighted at the sight of the northern lights last Sunday evening. While many remarked that this seemed unusually early for them to make a return, in actuality the aurora borealis, as it is also known, do not really go anywhere the rest of the year—it’s just very hard to see them in the constant solar light of the summer.
As we head into late August, darkness begins to return to Iceland; specifically, there is now darkness from between around 22:00 and 05:00 this time of year. As such, there is now ample time to be able to witness the northern lights, provided solar activity and cloud cover cooperate.
As Iceland’s cloud cover is notoriously mercurial, it is likely a good idea to check the Icelandic Met Office’s aurora forecast page before going hunting for the northern lights. This page details not only cloud cover forecasts, but also the predicted level of solar particle bombardment in the upper atmosphere that makes the lights possible.
It may be possible to see the northern lights in the bustling metropolis of Reykjavík, but getting away from electric light activity will increase your chances. And if you intend to photograph them, for social media clout or general enjoyment, you should set your cameras accordingly:
- ISO 800
- Aperture 3.5 or lower
- Exposure time 10-20 seconds
- Manual focus
Lastly, you might be intrigued by some of Icelanders’ superstitions concerning the northern lights, such as their being a harbinger of both good times and conflict, and the bizarre effect the lights purportedly have on pregnant people. And in case you were worried; no, the northern lights do not emit significant levels of dangerous radiation.
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