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New Moon tips for Aurora viewing

is it better to do the viewing 5 days before or after the new moon period? i know there're other factors for aurora viewing and the weather changes in a beat in Iceland but at least i don't want to have clear sky only to be disrupted by new moon. We plan to spare 3 days in case we need rebooking in Reykjavik. Is it normally sufficient time to do the rebooking? Is it better to have the spare days consecutively or planned apart? I read that within a week there could be 50-50chances the weather is nice hence, the longer we stay, the better chance we could view the aurora.

Posted by
263 posts

I think you need to avoid a full moon date as that is when the moon rises at sunset and is fully reflecting the sun rays back to earth all night long. A new moon is when the moon is between the earth and the Sun and the sun's rays hit the back side of the moon and does not shine on the earth. A few day on either side of a new moon date there would only be a small crescent moon.

Posted by
2575 posts

Hmm. I wonder of it does matter (slightly)? I am never going to be able to explain it well, but does the moonlight flow in a specific direction even with a crescent? As in, is it brighter in the North on a waning or waxing moon?
There are northern light reports and projections websites, and I bet there is an email on one of those sites for you to ask.

Posted by
210 posts

Yes, it's the full moon that you want to avoid. If the Lights are strong you may see a little during a full moon, but it is much more difficult. Last week, during the new moon period, we had spectacular viewing--but only because we were VERY lucky and the clouds cleared for several nights. My suggestion is to choose potentially strong viewing dates (you can research online), then plan other activities for the daytime so you aren't too disappointed if the evening weather and viewing conditions don't cooperate.

If you are considering photography, make sure you research camera settings. Know that the beautiful photographs you see have been enhanced--what you see is still stunning, but colors are not as vivid. On our N. Lights tour I learned there is an app available for the iPhone that enhances photography of the N. Lights. (Or, just be present in the moment and create memories of this beautiful experience!)

Posted by
6 posts

can't agree more with you guys. my friend who saw it also told me it's much less vivid with the naked eye and to capture it in a photograph needs skill. one of my friend also had a blurry image taken. Luck plays a lot of factor but hey who knows our effort in doing more research pays off. Not sure if the less vivid image seen with naked eyes is due to this year's being in the least solar maximum activity until 2024 (https://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/nature-travel/iceland-when-to-see-northern-lights)

Hi Den, good on you getting to see the aurora. Did you do it on a tour from Reykjavik? If you do, may I know which tour? Also, did you take the picture by yourself or by the tour? I got mixed reviews about the tours that also offer photo service. The pictures taken are sometimes worse than the customers' or there're only 1 photographer for the whole group (even the Super Jeep Tour could still have total of 30-40 people)

Posted by
2575 posts

You know, there is a lot of excellent viewing in Yukon and Northwest Territories. Most likely a lot cheaper too😁

Posted by
210 posts

There are a number of companies that have Northern Lights tours; I don't know that there would be a lot of difference in what they can offer. We went out twice with Reykjavik Excursions; the tour was included with our Icelandair air/land package. They took us to a location about a one hour drive from Reykjavik (a different location each night). The first night was too cloudy; the second night there was a glimpse of the Lights so that counted as our "seeing" them. (We were underwhelmed but the tour company can't control the movement of clouds!) The tour guide we had the first night was quite good and did a lot of teaching about the Northern Lights on our ride to the viewing site.

Our best viewing, which was TRULY spectacular, was in southern Iceland near Kirkjubæjarklaustur. We stood outside our cabin for well over an hour; we could see the Lights in every direction (including overhead). Then, three nights in Reykjavik where we saw the Northern Lights clearly from the Perlan area. Not as vivid a showing as when we were away from city lights, but still very clear.

Iceland is a beautiful country! My recommendation is to focus on the natural areas that you know can be accessed, and look at a Northern Lights viewing as the cherry on top of the sundae:).

Edited to add: There was no professional photography offered on our tours. On our best viewing night there happened to be a photographer staying in the cabin next to us; he took our photo with the Lights in the background. It shows what the right camera--and a skilled photographer!--can do.

Posted by
8488 posts

I have been to Iceland twice hoping to see the lights. I was rained out both times. I am trying again next month. One week in Iceland ( 2 locations) and one week in the Faroes. If I don't see them this time, I give up.

The evening tours out of Reykjavik are basically the same as they seem to go to the same places.

Posted by
7 posts

If you want a better chance at Northern Lights, try Abisko in Sweden, or Tromso in Norway. Otherwise if you are in North America, WHitehorse and Yellowknife in Canada are great, as well as Alaska. The problem with Iceland is the weather and clear skies are not always there.