The Northern Lights and a Full Moon
In our opinion, the full moon does not ruin your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
There! We’ve said it!!
And if you don’t believe us then read what some of the best and most knowledgeable Aurora guides in the business have to say on the matter further down the page
Scour the internet and you’ll find all manner of diverging opinions regarding the impact a full moon has on your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis.
In more extreme, and, it has to be said, ill-informed circles, it is said that the lunar cycle is absolutely critical to our ability to see the Northern Lights and that a full moon is pretty much the end of the Aurora hunter’s world. It’s fair to say that the majority of these people have obviously never seen the Northern Lights because it is quite simply not the case – you can see the Aurora Borealis when there is a full moon.
The better informed opinion is that the moon makes little or no difference at all, and others believe that a full moon enhances the experience. The vast majority of our Aurora guides, photographers and staff who have seen the Aurora Borealis many, many times favour this latter theory (please see the examples below).
The generally accepted view amongst experts is that a full moon shining directly behind a low intensity Aurora may be detrimental to your viewing pleasure but take a look at the sky next time our lunar partner is full. Look at how much sky it doesn’t fill!! The night sky is vast and the moon has to be in a particularly inconvenient spot to spoil even a minor Aurora Borealis.
We’ve seen many an Aurora Borealis here at the Aurora Zone and the general consensus is that a full moon in the Arctic firmament is a magnificent spectacle in its own right, doubly so when it is accompanied by a full blown Aurora.
This is our opinion and we fully acknowledge that you will find conflicting thoughts on this topic. However, please remember that we have been out there in all conditions and our main guides are hunting down the Lights pretty much every night from late-August until early-April. The comments here are based on our personal experiences of the Northern Lights so we urge you not to get too caught up in the full/new moon debate because the lunar cycle has nothing like the impact that you may have been led to believe.
In our opinion, the Aurora chaser’s arch enemy is cloud cover. If you have blanket cloud cover, no amount of new moons will help you see the Northern Lights.
Here’s what the real experts have to say on the matter
We asked some of our guides and partners in the Aurora Zone to tell us how they believe a full moon impacts on the Northern Lights. Remember, these guys spend more than half the year under the Arctic sky searching for and photographing the Aurora, these are the people in the know.
Please excuse their sometimes broken English but we want to report what they have to say verbatim……and let’s face it…..their English is far better than our Finnish or Swedish!!
Markku Inkila – Aurora Borealis Guide and Photographer – Nellim, Finnish Lapland
“It is actually one of the best moments when the new moon is rising. The full moon is bright but it is something very special to see it with Auroras. Jouko’s picture for example was taken at full moon.”
Image 1: Jouko Lappalainen captured this Aurora Borealis at Nellim in Finnish Lapland
Aurora in the Wild http://www.theaurorazone.com/holidays/20/aurora-in-the-wild
The Aurora Quest http://www.theaurorazone.com/holidays/5/aurora-quest
Lights Over Lake Inari http://www.theaurorazone.com/holidays/10/northern-lights-over-lake-inari
Klas Tigerstrm – Aurora and Wilderness Guide – Abisko, Swedish Lapland
“People are always concerned about the moon! Even though I would say so far all the clients we have had during moon period have had crazy Auroras.
I always say (when people ask) that the moon doesn´t influence it during winter period. Maybe the super faint ones, but then on the other hand people don´t really get stoked about those ones anyway...When we getting into early April, the moon can influence it. But then the nights are so bright anyway due to the sun... -May the Aurora be with us-“
Klas captured this image of the Aurora Borealis apparently blowing smoke rings near Abisko in Swedish Lapland.
Anne Harju & Timo Halonen –Hotel Owner and Aurora Guide – Menesjarvi, Finnish Lapland
Anne and Timo own the Menesjarvi Hotel where the Northern Lights regularly blaze overhead. Anne summed up their experience as follows:
“I know the feeling, we get daily several times the same question and it is quite frustrating work to answer…
But when I send /show the enclosed photos, specially the first one people shooting aurora with sun set, full moon,Venus and Saturn as well, usually people stop talking…
Also usually when it is full moon, the sky is more often clear (often much colder as well…) and better changes to see aurora, so actually I would personally wish for full moon instead of snowy wetter and clouds… of course sun has to be active…”
Timo Halonen captured this image from Lake Menesjarvi in Finnish Lapland.
Menesjarvi Wilderness Auroras http://www.theaurorazone.com/holidays/17/wilderness-auroras
Antti Pietikäinen – Aurora Photographer (one of the best in the business) – Muonio, Finnish Lapland
“You can see auroras with the full moon, no question about it.
With full moon in the sky you'll miss the very faint Auroras, normal green arch which we statistically have every second night and is visible in the north.
Northern lights just look a bit different against dark blue, than deep black sky.
Mild light pollution does much more damage than full moon when viewing aurora”
Antti captured this stunning Aurora and full moon near his home in Muonio, Finnish Lapland.
Chad Blakley – Aurora Photographer and Guide – Abisko, Swedish Lapland
“We have had several guests that feel the same way (about the full moon) but we have always been able to help them understand that they can in fact see the lights during a full moon by showing them images and videos of the lights taken during this portion of the lunar cycle.
You can see a few of our videos during a full moon here: https://vimeo.com/59991353 https://vimeo.com/57447991 https://vimeo.com/38151491 https://vimeo.com/38086308
I have also attached several images to this email that show the lights sharing the sky with a full moon.”
Chad captured this Aurora Borealis on 08 March 2012. A quick check of the moon’s calendar reveals that this was the night of – you guessed it – a full moon.
Image: Chad Blakley – Lights Over Lapland
You can join one of Chad’s Lights over Lapland photography evenings during any of our trips at Abisko: