Aurora Borealis is perhaps the most well known attraction in the North. Inari area is located in the so called Aurora zone and the Northern Lights occur here roughly 200 days each year. Some of them are invisible, as they occur during the nightless time.
The Aurora oval is an oval-shaped area around the magnetic poles of the earth and in these areas the Lights occur. The Northern oval is located approximately 2000 km from the northern magnetic pole. The oval shrinks and expands in north-south direction according to magnetic activity. When the Aurora activity is on an ordinary level, Inari is in the middle of this zone and this is why the Northern Lights are so common in our area. If the oval expands wide because of high activity, it concurrently moves to the south and the Lights can be seen in southern Lapland or even southern Finland. When the oval shrinks, it is located on the northern side of Inari.
Solar activity and sunspots are connected to the occurrence of Northern Lights, as sunspots cause flares from the sun and increase the amount of electrical particles that reach our atmosphere and cause the phenomena. The amount of sunspots on the sun’s surface varies in an 11 year long cycle and the extremities are knows as solar maximum and solar minimum. Sunspots are not however the only thing, that affects the occurrence of Northern Lights especially in the far north. Research has shown that in the very north, for example on the Spitzbergen islands this variation doesn’t really have any affect. In the southern areas the Northern Lights become rare during the solar minimum. Other factors in the frequency of Northern Lights are the strength of the solar wind and the disturbances in our magnetic fields. The solar wind brings the particles to our atmosphere and disturbances in the magnetic field pull these particles towards the earth’s poles. On the hot gas atmosphere, on the surface of the sun there are more permanent coronal holes during the solar minimum so that the stream of particles has a more steady flow with the solar wind towards the earth.
Statistically the occurrence of the Northern Lights is highest during the weeks around the autumn and spring equinoxes. This is caused by earth’s tilted positioning towards the sun and the shield of the magnetic field is weakened, allowing the stream of particles to our atmosphere more easily.
Our Aurora camera
Located on our roof top, our all sky camera takes a 360° still photograph of the sky once in a minute. This photo is transmitted to all our televisions, in the restaurants and also in the hotel rooms. From the updating photos we can see the following:
- 1. We can see what the weather conditions are locally. If the photo shows a grey sky, it is cloudy outside. If the sky looks black and has small white dots, we are looking at a clear sky and stars.
- When the Aurora start developing in the sky, we can see it first as a thin white line, that usually stretches across the sky. We can wait for a few minutes to see updated photos and follow how the Aurora is developing. You can also step outside to see what is happening.
- On the screen we can see very clearly when the activity becomes strong and this is finally the time to get warmly wrapped up and to go outside to witness this awesome show of nature.
- Our camera is very sensitive so that it works when it is completely dark outside.
What is an ideal place for viewing Auroras like?
The Aurora oval is only one factor to good observation of the Northern Lights in any area. In smaller villages like Inari there is usually no great amount of light pollution. It is easy to step outside the street lit areas to admire the scenes in the sky. You can find quite a few good viewing areas inside Inari village which are not far from your doorstep. Behind our hotel you will find the bank of Juutua River which is quite free from light pollution, as when the Aurora appear, we turn off all scenic lights behind the hotel. On the nearby bay of Lake Inari, once the ice is strong, you can get an unrestricted view of the sky. Near the hotel there is also a camp fire site behind the little Onnenkukkula hillock, also a good viewing area. And not to forget Oh Juutua trail where you can have a nice evening walk and the dim lights will not stop you from seeing the Auroras.
Local micro climate can have a significant effect to how often we get to enjoy clear skies. Our location inland gives us a drier climate with less rain or snowfall. Also the location by the vast Lake Inari helps us, as many times the weather fronts go around the lake. In the Nordic countries low pressure is common in the winter time and this causes a lot of rain and snowfall. These fronts most commonly approach Inari from the southwest but the Saariselkä ja Hammastunturi mountain ranges south of us often weaken the fronts and / or direct them towards the east, avoiding our area.
The short-term weather forecast is the most important factor on which Aurora activity we recommend to our guests. If the forecast predicts cloudy weather, we recommend taking part in an Aurora hunt by car. Our local safari company has experienced guides and our location at the crossroads gives your party the chance to easily head out to whichever direction seems most promising for clear skies.
If the weather in Inari will be clear, you can easily see the Northern Lights independently near the hotel areas. If your wish is especially to take great photographs of the Lights, we would recommend to join an Aurora Camp, which would be located in a light pollution free area and you can get some photo tips from the guides. All other Aurora programmes will also take you to a dark area and always include some other nice activity, for example snowshoeing and reindeer sleighing. Here you can see the Aurora activities available in our area and you can easily book them on the spot as well, when we have seen the weather forecasts.
In Finnish folklore the Northern Lights are born when a red fox brushes the lights with its fluffy tail onto to sky, and from this myth comes the Finnish name for Northern Lights, ‘the Fox Fires’. In Sami language Northern Lights are called ‘kuovsâkkâsah’ and emeritus professor for Sami languages Pekka Sammallahti believes that the name is connected to a local bird, the Siberian Jay, ‘kuovskâ’ in Inarisami language. This bird’s colourful feather coat and dashing movements resemble the reddish and lively Northern Lights. The Skolt Sami people have believed that the red Northern Lights have been born, when a mythical hero called Náinâs had a cut on his leg and the bled onto the sky.
In the northern areas there are quite a few traditional rules on how to behave with the Northern Lights. It is absolutely forbidden to tease them in any way, for example by whistling, as they will descend and snatch you up. At all occasions, your behaviour should be peaceful and quiet. Very often we do hear loud whoops of joy from outside, but never mind, we understand that while witnessing this great spectacle of nature, it is impossible to control it.
The Northern Lights have been researched from numerous different viewpoints. In recent years for example it has been researched if the Northern Lights make any sounds. Our father Reino has been telling stories how sometimes the Lights can make bangs or they may crackle and also sometimes he has smelled something burning while watching the Lights. Scientist have at least had observations of sounds originating in the Northern Lights.
Kaisu’s Northern Lights story:
I met my English husband-to-be Lee for the first time here in Inari in 1994, during a solar maximum. During the autumn we had seen many great displays of the Northern Lights but at that time the only tourists interested in them were the Japanese. Lee had travelled for a short break with his university friends to Lapland. After having arrived to Inari his friends started to watch tv. Lee thought that he hadn’t come all this way to watch the telly and headed outside from a nearby youth hostel. Almost immediately he saw a fantastic display of the Lights above Inari. It was so impressive, that he headed off to find a phone to call his family back in England. He noticed the triangular light sign for Kultahovi in the distance and headed that way. Inside he found a phone to use and behind the bar his future wife, I. And the rest is history as they say.”