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The Blessing of Not Knowing

I could have called this The Agony of Not Knowing. But I choose to be positive about things because that makes life easier. But I'll explain what I mean.

Icy sea on a beautiful April night
The sunset colours held on to the horizon for hours and never really left it. Can you see the waves splashing into the edge of the ice?

When is the latest date in spring when you can see the Northern Lights? When does the season really end?

It depends on two things:

1) how far south you are located, and

2) how much solar activity that happens to occur at the very end of the season.

Now here's one thing that might surprise you. The aurora season is shorter further north and therefore also longer further south. It's because of the light arctic summer nights. The further north you go the more daylight hours you will have. Cross the Arctic Circle and you might even see the sun being up all night.

There is more darkness further south after spring equinox which is around March 21. If you are located at the Arctic Circle the aurora season ends around April 20 (my estimation, it's not an exact ending date). I live 330 kilometers (205 miles) south from the Arctic Circle and the season here ends about a week later and starts a week earlier.

Snow on gravel road
At 11 PM the sky was still bright as I drove on smaller and smaller roads towards my chosen destination.

Ice and sea after sunset
The waves made a constant noise as they crashed against the edge of the ice. It was –2 degrees Celsius on this late April night.

Do you get the picture? However, this does not mean that you see more auroras further south. The activity during the season is way higher inside the Arctic Circle. It's only at the end and the beginning of the season that we who are located further south get the benefit of a little more darkness.

Now let me go back to the subject line. Last night, April 27–28 2022, I did not know if I would see any auroral activity. Quite often there is this element of uncertainty when you go out aurora hunting. Yes, sometimes the activity is high and you can be sure to see the aurora dancing. But sometimes you have to take a chance and sacrifice hours of sleep without knowing if you will spot any activity at all.

And that's what I did last night. I have never seen the northern lights later than April 25 so I wanted to beat that record. Activity looked ok as I prepared for a night outside. I had a 30 minute drive and a 15 minute walk to the spot I had chosen and once I got there the activity was already decreasing rapidly.

But patience is one of my strength. I had to wait more than an hour for darkness. And although the northern horizon never got quite dark the aurora could have been seen. But I waited in vain.

Night sky at an icy shoreline
The darkest point of the night was at 1:30 AM and even that wasn't particularly dark. But the aurora could have been spotted above the light horizon.

On the other hand, I had a great time. I explored the coastline which was partly covered by a solid ice cover. 40 meters from the shoreline the ice had a thick edge, up to 2 meters at places. That's because waves keep throwing water upon the ice and when it freezes it gets thicker and thicker.

I heard the constant noise of waves crashing into that wall of ice as I struggled for quite a while to make a fire out of wood that I found on the beach.

Man sitting by campfire in Finland
I managed to make a fire out of wood I found by the shoreline. There is always hot chocolate in my termos.

Ice and a wind turbine park in the night
As I looked over the thick ice edge I could see three types of artificial light at the horizon. A wind turbine park, lights from a city and a light house.

At 2 AM I decided to relocate to a harbor where I sat in my car waiting for any activity. Because my aurora app now told me that activity was on the rise. But before the aurora started dancing the northern horizon had again became too light. I had to give up and go home, arriving at my house at 4 AM.

Twilight by the icy seashore
At this point the auroral activity started rising but the sky got brighter every minute making it impossible to see the activity.

I would not have gone out last night if I had known the aurora would not appear. But is that a good or a bad thing? After all I enjoyed the outdoor time, as I always do.

Two years ago I went to the same place to wait for the season's last aurora. The place looked completely different! Please click the button if you like to see it.


Want more stories? Heres a free collection of stories about real encounters with the Aurora Borealis. 62 pages at no cost!


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