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Northern lights in August

Actualizado: 2 de abr de 2020

Iceland is an incredible destination to see nature. At the end of August, the conditions are excellent to enjoy the amazing landscapes of the island; the displacements are easy without snow in the highways and the temperature is pleasant with a little shelter, being thankful a rest of the heats of August in Spain. However, it is not the best time to see the auroras borealis, as the chances of them appearing are slim, although on the contrary the options of a cloudless sky are better than in winter. But it's not impossible, and it's a good idea to be vigilant. One of the best ways is to check the Kp index on the Internet or with an app, which is an excellent indicator of changes in the Earth's magnetic field and can also be predicted days in advance.

During the trip the sky conditions were regular with clouds and intermittent rains, but as the last day approached, a conjunction of favorable conditions was forging with clear sky and high probability of auroras according to the Kp index, appearing as a fortunate isolated event that had neither occurred in months nor was predicted to occur in the coming weeks. I downloaded a mobile app that gave me a very high probability for the night of August 30th. There was only one problem: the flight was leaving that same night and the auroras were escaping us for a few hours. Faced with this circumstance, already at the airport and dragging the suitcases with disappointment at an opportunity we were leaving behind, my best birthday present (for which there were only a few days left) was conceived: to extend the trip one more night. We improvised a hotel near the airport, in Gardur, a small coastal town.

Gardur was just a few kilometers from the airport, and the hotel was very close to two lighthouses. The oldest, built in 1897, turned out to be an ideal location to wait for the auroras to appear, and we weren't the only ones who had that idea, many cars and even buses arrived at dusk. At the foot of the lighthouse we met a good group of expectant observers, some with their tripods and cameras, others willing to see the expected auroras with the naked eye.

The first auroras manifested themselves as impossible colors in some regions of the sky, without still wanting to offer all their splendor. At first sight they were only warnings of what was about to happen, but with the long exposure of the camera they already began to cause the first astonishing startles.

As the darkness went on, the clouds did not dissipate completely and it turned out that finally they decided to share with us the spectacle, contributing to it, because they were low clouds that in dispersed groups played to give relief and passage to the auroras.

It is not easy to describe the sensations next to the lighthouse that night looking at the sky. The auroras without previous warning and in slow motion were forming in different zones of the sky, with different colors and forms, evolving slowly, creating incredible images between the stars, the clouds and the lighthouse. It is clear that the enthusiasm was not experienced by all of us who were there in the same way, and minutes after what turned out to be the climax of the night, with intense auroras visible to the naked eye, the group began to dissolve and little by little we were less, until after a couple of hours we were only 2 or 3, reluctant to leave the show. After each image captured with the camera, we only had to wait a few minutes and what we saw in the sky was another form, another colour, another completely different game with the stars. How could we give up so much beauty and go to sleep? The emotion of what I experienced that night, the sensation of seeing a wonder of nature, I will never forget. Even now, months later, when I review the photos, I am able to transport myself under the lighthouse of Gardur and relive the sensations of being there.


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