Nature Science Universe

Why are sunsets and sunrises red?

This period in Vadsø, as in much of the Arctic region, nights begin getting longer and longer. It’s not yet the Polar Night, which means that everyday, beautiful sunsets and sunrises mark the beginning and the end of the dark, cold Arctic nights. But what makes sunsets so beautiful? Why does the sky and the Sun turn red?

In order to answer this, we need to review the same concepts we took into account when answering the question “why is the sky blue?“.

Light is an electromagnetic wave, just like radio waves, microwaves, and even the radiation resulted from radioactivity! The only difference between all these different electromagnetic waves is their wavelength.

Even the light that we actually perceive with our own eyes is made up of multiple wavelengths. And to each and all of these wavelengths of light corresponds a different colour! So, the light that comes to us from the Sun and which we see, is made up of multiple colours! Of all colours, to be exact!

Just like an ocean’s waves, light travels the same way: in waves! Blue light travels in shorter waves (with a shorter wavelength) and red light travels in longer waves (longer wavelengths).

When the sunlight, with all its colours, reaches Earth, it meets the planet’s atmosphere! Thus, it starts interacting with various particles in the air, such as tiny ice crystals, dust, water droplets and even gas molecules that make up the air itself! And once the light waves interact with these particles, it gets scattered!

For a wave to interact with a particle, the two must be of the same order of size. Smaller particles scatter short wavelength light (blue) stronger. Small air molecules, which make up the entire atmosphere, scatter the blue component of sunlight the most, and in all directions, because of its short wavelength! And this is why, during a sunny day, everywhere you look, the sky is blue!

At sunrise and sunsets however, the Sun, relative to us, finds itself at low positions in the sky. From these low positions in the sky, sunlight needs to travel longer distances, through thicker amounts of the atmosphere in order to reach our eyes.

At sunset and sunrise, sunlight travels a longer distance (pictured as the thick yellow arrow) through the atmosphere until it reaches our eyes.

Because of this, the light gets scattered more strongly by the atmosphere. Blue light, which gets scattered easiest, is in fact scattered so much, that it is mostly removed before it actually reaches our eyes. Which in turn means that there is more red light (which gets scattered the least) left for our eyes to see.

Me at sunset, on the shore of the beautiful Varanger fjord.
Nature Stargazing Universe

Comet Neowise

You have probably heard or read in the news recently about a magnificent sight in the night sky in the Northern hemisphere – the Neowise comet. It’s been discovered since March 2020 with the help of the Neowise space telescope, hence its name, but at the time of discovery it was of a +10 magnitude, thus not visible to the naked eye.

This month, however, its magnitude reduced to around +3 – which means that the comet is not only now visible to the naked eye, but it can also be seen in relatively light polluted areas, such as bigger cities! It is actually so bright that it is the second brightest comet in the night sky after the Hale-Bopp comet of 1997. Remember it?

So, if you live in Earth’s northern hemisphere, and if your sky is clear of clouds (…and, of course, if you don’t live in polar regions, where the Polar Day currently occurs), do take a look at the night sky! Best is to look just after the nautical twilight, or when the stars start being seen in the North-north-west direction, just a little bit above the horizon! More exactly, locate the well known asterism Big Dipper and look just right under it! You will not regret it!

And if you want to take photos of the comet, don’t forget your tripods! I forgot it and the photos look blurry, but still nice! Did you manage to take nice pictures of it? And remember, if you’d like to get to know the night sky better – do visit me in Vadsø next winter, where the perspective of the zenith is completely different and where light pollution almost doesn’t exist, and let’s go on an Arctic Stargazing adventure together!

Photo of Comet Neowise taken with my phone and without a tripod!
Nature Stargazing Universe

Natural Satellites

Natural satellites are natural celestial bodies that orbit around a planet of the Solar System. But did you know that another commonly used term for denoting a natural satellite is “moon”? You’ve all probably seen the Moon in the night sky! The Moon is Earth’s natural satellite that continuously orbits around our planet. However, other planets of our Solar System do have natural satellites, or moons!

Jupiter’s Moons

Probably the best known moons (other than our own planet’s Moon) are Jupiter’s: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa. Jupiter has 79 moons in total, but these 4 are the biggest and the most visible from Earth! They’re called Galilean moons, because they were first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610 as the first natural satellites that would orbit another planet than Earth! The 4 Galilean moons are visible in the night sky with almost any telescope and are a beautiful sight during a stargazing session.

Animation of the Galilean Moons. Image credit: NASA.

Saturn’s Moons

Saturn has got 82 moons. However, as the planet lies further away from Earth than Jupiter, and because the majority of the ringed planet’s moons are small in diameter, only one – Titan – is rather easily visible through a telescope from Earth.

Saturn moon transit. Image credit: NASA.

Other Moons

Mars, Uranus and Neptune also have their own moons, all varying in sizes from about 10 km diameter to as big as Neptune’s moon Triton, of approximately 2710 km in diameter!

The Moon

But now, coming back to earth’s Moon – did you know that this natural satellite is the brightest celestial body visible in the night sky? Its apparent magnitude varies from -2.50 during the New Moon phase, to -12.90 when it’s a Full Moon.

By the way, apparent magnitude measures the brightness of a celestial body (star, moon, satellite or any other astronomical object) observed from Earth. The lower the magnitude is, the brighter the object appears. As information, the Sun in the daytime sky has the apparent magnitude of -26.74 and the unaided human eye can see in the night sky magnitudes of up to around +3 (in relatively high light-polluted areas) or +5 (under very clear dark sky conditions).

Full Moon

…And did you also know that the Moon’s apparent size in the sky is almost the same as that of the Sun? The Moon’s diameter is, of course much, much smaller than that of the Sun: approximately 3500 km vs. the Sun’s 1.4 million km. But the relatively short distance between our planet and the Moon (384400 km), compared to the distance from Earth to the Sun (150 million km), makes the apparent size of the two celestial bodies approximately the same. Moreover, this relatively similar apparent size makes it possible for the Moon to cover the Sun almost precisely during a total solar eclipse! However, as the Moon’s distance from Earth continually increases, this “perfect” match between the two similar apparent sizes will stop occurring in the far future and total solar eclipses will not be possible anymore.

Oh, and did you know that the Moon is also responsible for the tides? Ocean tides are the continuous rise and fall of sea levels, which occur because of the concurrence between the Moon’s and Sun’s gravities, combined with Earth’s rotation! But more about this subject in another article!

Nature Northern Lights Vadsø Weather

See the Northern Lights This Winter

Wondering why an article about the Northern Lights? Especially now that, where you are probably reading this article, it’s the middle of summer, with hot temperatures, just right to go for a swim! However – especially if you have been dreaming about seeing the beautiful Aurora – now it’s about time to plan your trip for the coming winter… to the Great North! But where? When? How long? Where is the best place on Earth to see the Northern Lights? I’ll try answering these questions in this article, so keep on reading!

The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and their physical occurrence cannot be guaranteed 100% in a certain place at a certain time. However, with a bit of planning and with the right knowledge, the chances of seeing the Aurora can be increased considerably! We will not discuss here what the Aurora is, I will just tell you what you need to take into account when planning your Northern Lights winter holiday.

Where is the best place on Earth to see the Northern Lights?

The short answer: anywhere where Auroras occur easily, even when the conditions necessary for Auroras to occur, are at a minimum. This place is in fact a “belt”, which encircles Earth’s magnetic North Pole, known as the Kp=0 Auroral Oval. Kp is a measurement, used for quantifying the necessary conditions for Auroras to occur. When Kp is 0, it means that there is very little activity. But, despite this, on this “belt”, Auroras do occur rather easy, and are perfectly visible. This Kp=0 Auroral Oval has a very precise location and people traveling to places on this belt have great chances to see the magnificent dancing lights.

Incidentally, this Kp=0 Auroral Oval passes right through Vadsø in Norway, where Aurora Labs is located! This is thus a great place to choose as destination, if you’d like to have a good chance of seeing the Aurora! This is one of the main reasons why I chose Vadsø as the location where to create Aurora Labs! But there are many other reasons – continue to read to find them out!


Another important point to consider is weather. Clouds can cover the sky entirely, hiding the magical Lights! So you will need a clear sky in order to see the overwhelming Light display. Weather is completely unpredictable, especially when you probably buy your ticket to the Arctic months before your actual travel date.

So, when your travel date comes, you will have to accept the weather “as is”. Here in Vadsø the weather changes quite rapidly: if now you have a heavy, cloudy sky, in just a matter of minutes, you can have a sky clearing, which will actually let you see the Northern Lights, in all their beauty!

The best is to have someone who can predict, on the spot, what weather will be in the coming hour, and where and when a sky clearing might occur. I do just that, so don’t hesitate and book a Hunt the Aurora activity with me, right now! In addition, I interpret the Auroral forecasts as well, and maximize even more the chances of you seeing the beautiful Aurora.

In addition, why not combine seeing the Northern Lights with hearing them or learning about them? At Aurora Labs I do that as well! I even teach you how to predict weather on the spot, too, if you would like to forecast weather yourself!


One more important thing about weather is coldness. The Arctic is well known for being a cold region! But can you handle all that coldness during your whole trip to the North? Vadsø is special concerning this point, as well! Being right on the coast of the Varanger Fjord, which opens in the Barents Sea, thus taking advantage of the warm ocean stream, Vadsø is actually warmer than many other places in the Arctic, and this even in the nearby region! Take a look at this temperature map (taken by myself on my phone, on a random date – 28 January 2020):

Due to the warm ocean stream, temperatures on the coast are warmer. So, when not hunting the Aurora, you can enjoy other activities easier, in milder temperatures, which makes them much more pleasant, especially if you’re not used to extreme cold.

You might argue now: yes, but warmer temperatures bring more clouds. That’s true, you have a point there. But just look how close Vadsø is to much colder areas! In a matter of minutes, we can get to a place where there are 20, or even more degrees less, and where clouds are probably less likely to be present! One more point for Vadsø there!

See and Do More

In addition, you would probably like to be able to do and see other stuff at your chosen destination, besides only spotting the Aurora! Vadsø does check this point on the list as well, as you can enjoy here lots of other Arctic activities (such as dog sledding or snowmobile trips), as well as visit extremely beautiful places, rich in history and culture, during fun road-trips! Just have a look on the Aurora Labs website and see for yourself!

…Or read this article on the blog and see the top reasons for choosing Vadsø as your next Arctic destination!

And the best if you do come to Vadsø: all of these places are well off the beaten track, far away from mass tourism! So you get to experience everything calmly, at the real Arctic rhythm and style!

If this does appeal to you, get in touch right now! I’ll be glad to help you plan and book your next trip here! And I’d be delighted to welcome you and help you discover this beautiful region!

When is the best time to experience the Aurora?

Experiencing the Aurora means, for most people, seeing it dance in the Arctic winter sky. To do this, of course, you need to come to the Arctic during the winter months, when the sky is dark. If you do choose Vadsø as your destination, you should then plan to come here between end of September and end of March. Anytime during this period, the sky is enough dark in order to permit the Northern Lights to be seen right overhead.

Northern Lights in Summer!

And because the Aurora occurs even in summer, I have found ways to experience the phenomenon even then! With me, you will be able to listen to the Northern Lights or even take a fun and informative workshop, where you can learn about this magnificent phenomenon. And the best part is that you can do these things anytime – even in summer (and now, you can even take the Aurora workshop online, anytime you’d like and from anywhere in the World!)

Listen to the Northern Lights
Listen to the Northern Lights with Aurora Labs
Nature Science Stargazing Universe

“Stargazing” during the day

The polar day has almost arrived in Vadsø and the night sky is almost as bright as during the daytime. Therefore, the stars, planets and other sky objects will not be visible anymore during “classical” stargazing sessions, under a dark night sky! But we at Aurora Labs, did find a possibility to enjoy the sky from an astronomical point of view nevertheless – even in daylight!

The International Space Station, or ISS as it is commonly known, is today the largest man-made object that flies in space, at around 400 km altitude above Earth. And because it has the size of a football field, it is big enough to be seen even from our planet!

The International Space Station orbiting Earth
The International Space Station orbiting Earth

Things are easier at night: if you look at the sky, the ISS will appear as a very bright star (approximately the same brightness as planet Venus). Because it is so bright, it should be seen even from urban areas! The bright dot suddenly appears on the horizon, moves steadily without changing speed or direction, and disappears again below the horizon. And it doesn’t blink as a plane does. If you’ve ever seen something like this, chances are that you’ve spotted the ISS! In addition, there are online tools and phone apps which calculate for you when ISS should be visible in your exact location – such as, for example, Spot the Station, provided by NASA.

You don’t need a telescope to see this show; however, to the naked eye, the ISS looks like a bright dot, with no other features. A telescope would permit you to see some features, as solar panels for example.

During the day, things are more difficult. At night, ISS is seen because it reflects the light of the already set Sun. During the day, however, a possibility to see ISS is when it passes across (or transits) the face of the Sun. And what a great sight that is! Be careful though, in order to see this great show, you need a properly equipped telescope with solar filters when you look at the Sun, otherwise the light of our star is so bright, that it can create even blindness!

Multiple photographers around the world have taken such photos of the ISS transiting the Sun or moon. ISS travels at a speed of around 28.000 km/h, so, can you imagine how precise you need to be in order to capture such a moment that only lasts less than half a second? Because – yes – the ISS transiting the Sun or moon lasts less than 0.5 seconds!

One of the most recent photos of this kind, is the one taken by the photographer Mack Murdoc from Los Angeles, which is a composite photo showing the ISS as it passed across the Sun.

"International Space Station Solar Transit." © Mack Murdoc - see the original publication on Mack Murdoc's Instagram:
“International Space Station Solar Transit.” © Mack Murdoc – see the original publication on Mack Murdoc’s Instagram:

During daytime hours, besides the ISS, it is possible to see even planets, such as Venus, transiting the Sun! In the photo below, the black dot is not a sunspot, as you might believe, but it’s no other than planet Venus!

Gestrgangleri (, „20040608 Venus Transit“, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons:
Gestrgangleri (, „20040608 Venus Transit“, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons:

And here, meet Mercury as the small black round dot (you can also see sunspots in this picture, and how different they look compared to the perfect round shape of a planet):

Elijah Mathews (,_May_9th,_2016.png), „Transit Of Mercury, May 9th, 2016“,

The Moon is also sometimes visible in the sky during the daylight, and with a properly equipped telescope, you can see its features really well, too!

The Moon seen during the day
The Moon seen during the day

Last but not least, our Sun is a star, just like the million others out there that you can see in the night sky! Therefore it can be observed with a telescope as well! A specially equipped telescope with solar filters, of course, to protect your eyes from the extremely bright light! If you visit me here in Vadsø, I offer this activity as part of the Cloud Spotting under the Midnight Sun activity and we’ll have a look at our star and at its sunspots!

The Sun and a few sunspots