Experience the Northern Lights in Skellefteå

Welcome to Skellefteå, one of the many places in northern Sweden where you can experience the natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis as it is also called. Here are some tips that might be useful to have with you in the pursuit of the Northern Lights.

When do the Northern Lights appear?

Although the Northern Lights often appear during cold winter nights, they start showing up in the sky earlier than that. As early as when darkness returns in August, there are good chances to experience the Northern Lights. After that, the season extends throughout the winter until the month of March.

It is important to remember that the Northern Lights are not visible every evening, and when they do occur, they can be weak or obscured by clouds. One of the factors that must always be present is darkness. The darker, the better.

Late evenings and nights are therefore the best time.

Since a clear, dark sky provides the best conditions, the city center of Skellefteå is not the best place to experience the Northern Lights. If the Northern Lights are strong enough, they can be visible even in central Skellefteå, but by leaving the city center and the light pollution, the chances of experiencing the truly great spectacle increase.

There are several apps that can tell you when the chances are greatest to see the Northern Lights, and there we can recommend the app Aurora Forecast.

Dress warmly

Few things are as disappointing as having to run inside to warm up when the spectacle finally begins. So remember to wear warm clothes, preferably in several layers with a wool base layer, a down jacket, or a thick outer jacket. Don't forget warm wool socks, gloves, or a hat. Sometimes the wait for the Northern Lights can be prolonged, so having something warm to drink and something to snack on is never a bad idea.

Photograph the Northern Lights

Feel free to use a wide-angle lens, as it captures a larger area in the picture. Set the aperture to the lowest your lens allows and use a shutter speed of anything between 10 and 30 seconds. This is something you'll need to experiment with. It's also a good idea to use a tripod to keep the camera stable. This will help you get a sharper image. If it's still too dark, you can increase the ISO value, but be careful not to raise it too much, as this can make the image appear too noisy. Don't forget an extra battery either. In the cold, the battery life can be significantly shorter than usual.

About the northern ligths

Galileo Galilei gave the northern lights their latin name, Aurora Borealis. Aurora is the Roman goddess of dawn. Her siblings are Sol and Luna, the sun and the moon. The Greeks also considered Aurora to be the mother of Anemoi, the god of winds. Borealis comes from the greek word for a northern wind and can be traced to another god of antiquity, Borea. Borea is often associated with wild horses and a raging temper. In short, the natural carrier of a cold, northern wind.


In a sense it could be said that Galileo really hit the nail on the head when he named this beautiful light display after these two gods. Light and untamed force. The scientific explanation, however, is a different one entirely and not all that easy to explain. The lights are caused by particles from solar flares that are pulled in by the Earth’s magnetosphere. When these particles reach the atmosphere, they collide with atoms and molecules that  are “charged” or at least have their energy state altered.


Different types of atoms create different light. The most common type is green, caused by affected oxygen atoms at a height of approx. 100-140 kilometres. The red light is also related to oxygen but occurs at heights closer to 200 km, whilst violet and blue light comes from nitrogen ion reactions. 


The northern lights can be experienced from September (sometimes as early as August, when the autumn dark begins to fall), until April. There is an idea that cold temperatures are required, but that’s not really true. However, a clear, starry night sky is of course crucial. Today, there are several excellent northern lights services who produce forecasts, predicting the chances of seeing the lights, based on solar flare activity. Look up!