Coronal hole sparked bright Auroras in Inari

The solar minimum may be on its way but it does not mean that we will not see Auroras in Finnish Lapland anymore. Sure, the sun is not covered with sunspots anymore. As a result, there are no big solar flares (eruptions on the sun) to send large quantities of solar plasma into space. This probably means that southern latitudes might see less frequent Auroras. But during solar minimum, coronal holes still occur frequently, creating enough disturbance to spark bright Auroras “under the oval”. Inari is located right under this oval. This makes it the perfect place to still see bright Auroras even during solar minimum.

What is a coronal hole?

The corona is the scientific word to describe the atmosphere of the sun. Sometimes, gaps, or holes, open in the corona. They are called coronal holes. These openings allow the solar wind to flow freely at a greater speed and density into space. When such a coronal hole faces our planet Earth, this solar wind will eventually reach us and spark Auroras in northern latitudes.

(Limited spots available)

Thursday 15 March 2018 at Solojärvi near Inari

That Thursday I spent the afternoon in the wilderness with reindeer herder Petri Mattus taking photos of his work with the reindeer. This was a perfect coincidence as he lives near the lake Solojärvi, a perfect location to take photos of the Auroras. I wanted to shoot the Aurora on a frozen lake, to have a clear view on the horizon. So just after sunset, I drove there and decided to settle there for the night.

While driving, and despite a still quite bright twilight, I could already see Aurora. I had to hurry to the middle of the lake to get a clear view to the sunset. It was a dream coming true to photograph the Aurora above the orange glow of the sun.

Bright Aurora dancing in the twilight above the orange glow of sunset
Bright Aurora dancing in the twilight above the orange glow of sunset (8:13 PM).

As you can see, the sky was totally full with Aurora, and there was even already a purple fringe visible! And just 2 minutes later, a corona appeared right above my head.

A coronal hole facing earth produced strong auroras
Aurora corona straight overhead (8:15 PM).

After this first long outburst of Auroras, the sky kept glowing in a very soft green for more than 3 hours. A group came and walked in the distance along the shore. They probably got cold, and disappeared back in their car and away from the lake. There was indeed almost nothing to see at the time. They missed everything that followed! I knew that it could not just stop there, so I stood there, on my frozen lake, with the temperature plummeting to -30°C (-22°F) as I found out later, waiting for more Auroras.

Aurora explosion above the lake

Finally, around 11:30 PM, the sky exploded in the brightest, fastest and most intense greens and purples that I had ever seen. The Aurora was everywhere, and I could barely handle it with my 14mm lens! So you see, northern lights sparked by a coronal hole can be breathtaking as well.

Auroras in Inari can be very bright in the right conditions
Bright green and purple Aurora in the southern sky (11:28 PM).
Bright green and purple Aurora in portrait format above trees
24 seconds later…

By the way, I don’t know how I managed to get from landscape to portrait orientation in literally 24 seconds with my nearly frozen fingers…

Back “home” in Kaamanen

Solojärvi is about a 45 minutes drive away from the cabin where I usually stay in Kaamanen. So, around midnight I decided that it was time to start driving, knowing very well that it might lead me to missing a part of the show. The sky was really bright during the entire drive, but luckily it seems that nothing really special happened. Besides, I was constantly in touch on Whatsapp with my friends from Aurora Holidays also not too far away, and I’m pretty sure that my phone would have buzzed a lot if any explosion happened during my drive!

It seems that I arrived just on time in Kaamanen…

Bright Aurora with very well defined shapes
It is very rare to see such a strong and well defined Aurora, especially in the southern part of the sky (0:42 AM).

About 10 minutes later, the brightest corona of the night appeared right above my head. It was pulsating like I had never seen before.

Aurora corona
Bright and fast Aurora corona overhead (0:52 AM).

Last Auroras in Inari in my season

These were the last Auroras in Inari for me that season. This was the most incredible way to end the season. These were also the best Auroras that I have ever seen, all seasons combined, since 6 years that I have been chasing them. That was truly a night to remember! And to think that they were not sparked by a solar flare, but rather a simple (yet big) coronal hole, gives me plenty of hope that we will not really feel the solar minimum in the very north of Finnish Lapland.

(Limited spots available)

What next?

I regularly run my own workshops in the north of Finnish Lapland, so why don’t you check out where to go next?



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