7 Most Common Northern Lights Chasing Mistakes - Aurora Borealis

4 min read

We've done mistakes while chasing the Northern Lights and learned from them. Now we are sharing them with you so you don't have to repeat them.

7 Most Common Northern Lights Chasing Mistakes - Aurora Borealis
Northern Lights in the sky

Who would have thought that seeing the Northern Lights can be such a challenge? Even after learning a few things about chasing the aurora from our other article, there are still mistakes that a lot of people do. We'll cover 7 of the most common mistakes that we've done or we've seen others doing.

1. Change location too often

Some people think that if there are no lights in the sky, then the location is to blame. This can be very true if you have clouds in the sky or a tall mountain to your North. Otherwise, there probably isn't any aurora activity yet. If you're changing location often then you might miss the lights if they appear while you are driving.

2. Sit on the side of the road

Roads have most of the time lighting poles, not to mention cars passing by with their full beam headlight. The cars will simply blind you, not to mention that you will have a hard time seeing the aurora through the lighting poles.

Think about shutting off the light in your bedroom before going to bed. In the first minute, you will barely be able to see anything. Then your eyes will adjust to the darkness and, by some miracle, you will start seeing many details through the darkness of your bedroom.

I am sure you can always find a side road or a parking lot away from all the artificial lighting. Depending on where you are, safety might be your top concern. For example, in Iceland, you don't need to have such worry. If another car comes your way it might be because they are chasing the lights like you are, or they are checking on you to see if you have any problems and need help.

3. Wait with the car lights on

We've talked about external sources of light, but your own car's lights are also a source of light that is not helpful. Not only that you are disturbing others around you, but you are also lowering the chances for you to see the lights at their full strength.

Remember: to see the Northern Lights you need to have your eyes adjusted to the darkness!

4. Only check the sky from time to time

Some people want to stay in the comfort of their home or campervan, and only check the sky from time to time, looking up every 15 minutes or so. The aurora is not present in the sky all the time, and it changes intensity relatively quickly. You might miss it if you only look at the sky every 15 minutes. If you want to see the aurora you have to commit to it. If you're in the campervan, then take the front seats in order to be able to check the sky around you easily and frequently.

5. Looking in the wrong direction

Depending on the activity, the lights can be close to the horizon towards North, or they can rise above your head, spanning from East to West, being the most intense either towards East or West, but definitely not South. If you are sitting in your car, make sure you are parked in the correct direction. We would recommend having North in front of you because this way you can see in all directions where the Aurora might be. If it gets intense, get out of your car because the lights might cover the entire sky, even above your head.

6. Wrong timing

The Northern Lights forecast is just a forecast. The best chance of seeing the Aurora is to go out and look for it for extended periods of time. However, if you don't have too much time, you have to try and time it. As we've explained in the other article about how to chase the lights, you can't predict the solar winds, but you can check the KP index forecast and go out around the hour when the highest index is forecasted.

If you don't check the forecast, you'll increase your probability of going out at the wrong time, when there is nothing to see. If you go out when the KP index is predicted to be the highest, then you increase your chances of seeing the lights, but there is still a high probability of bad timing. As I said, the best thing is to increase the time you are out looking for the Northern Lights.

7. Not enough patience

Some people expect to go out, wait for 10 minutes, and boom! The lights are dancing in the sky. That's not how it happens. Sometimes you have to go out and wait at least one hour until something happens. Take some tea and some snacks, find a dark place with a clear sky, position yourself facing North and be patient! Don't sit with your eyes on your phone. Look up, left and right at the sky that surrounds you. Patience is key.


Eager to learn more about how to spot and how to photoshoot the Northern Lights? Check out our other articles to increase your chances to view the lights.

Northern Lights - Travelfoss
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