Join Sky & Telescope Observing Editor JR Johnson-Roehr in Iceland and see the aurora borealis.
I’ve cleared my calendar for the first week of October. I’ll be in Iceland that week, touring the countryside during the day and chasing the northern lights at night. On October 2nd, I’ll be meeting a group of like-minded individuals in Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital. Together, we’ll watch for auroral outbursts, traveling to dark-sky sites away from the city for the best views. During the day, we’ll explore Iceland’s history, its unique geology and topography, and its best recreational sites.
Seeing the northern lights is weather dependent, of course, but we’ll have viewing possibilities every night during one of the best parts of the year for aurora activity. The tour takes place in October because more vivid light displays occur in the spring and fall. Plus, we’ll be arriving in Iceland just after new Moon, when the night sky is at its darkest.
I’m looking forward to watching the northern lights with you, and I’m also looking forward to talking to you about auroras and solar science. I’ll be giving two presentations during the week, both focused on the Sun and its effects. I’ll talk about aurora and space weather during my first presentation — what causes the northern lights? — but I’ll also share a bit of the history of solar research: how do we know what we know and when did we learn it? For this, I’ll be drawing on recent work at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore and Kodaikanal Observatory, one of the early stations of solar science.
The Sun also stars in my second presentation, during which I’ll discuss the August 2017 total solar eclipse. For those of us in North America, the eclipse will truly be a once in a lifetime experience, and I want to make sure you know everything you need to know to about this sure-to-be-spectacular event — all questions welcome!
But don’t worry, this week won’t be all about me talking. With our fantastic Icelandic guide, we’ll be touring Reykjavík, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and Iceland’s “Golden Circle,” all part of an itinerary featuring waterfalls, geysers, and Viking history. I recently took — and loved — a course on landscapes and Icelandic Sagas, so I’m particularly excited to see the land of the Snæfellsjökull glacier, which features in the Eyrbyggja Saga. You might know Snæfellsjökull as the volcano Jules Verne uses as a starting point in his Journey to the Center of the Earth. Either way — very exciting!
Sound fun? I hope so, and I hope you’ll join me in this adventure!