A lot of people travel to Iceland during the winter months to see the northern lights, and not without reason; it is one of the best places in the world to see them.
Northern Lights and Iceland’s latitude
This is due to the latitude of Iceland. The northern lights are caused when solar storms shoot charged particles towards Earth. When they reach the upper atmosphere, they get pulled to the North and South Poles. The lights appear when the particles collide with Earth’s gases.
Iceland’s latitude and longitude are between 63 and 68°N and 25 and 13°W, which positions it right in the northern lights belt which is the zone where the lights are most commonly seen.
Colour of the Northern Lights
The most common visible color of the lights is green and yellow. Other colors such red, purple and blue can also appear but are not as common. The colors are determined by the concentration of oxygen and nitrogen gases the particles from the Sun collide with.
Green lights are produced at a relatively low altitude of between 96 and 240 km (60 – 150 miles) when the Sun particles collide with oxygen. The concentration of oxygen is high in these elevations and our eyes have a great ability to detect a green color spectrum, which means it is easiest for us to see the lights when they are green.
Red lights are produced at an altitude higher than 240 km (150 miles) where the oxygen is not as dense as it is at lower altitudes. However, blues and purples tend to appear when solar activity has been high. They appear when the charged particles collide with nitrogen at an altitude of 94 km (60 miles) or less. The lights will be visible in the lower parts of the northern lights curatins.
But since the lights are a strictly natural phenomenon, it is impossible to guarantee their sighting. You will need solar storms, and clear and dark skies to be able to see them. You can check the forecast on the Icelandic Met Office and see the best spot to see them.