Finland is an ideal destination for both veteran and amateur astronomers, as its clear, unpolluted skies offer amazing views of the stars and planets, and a growing number of people are travelling to Finland just to observe the skies. This quick guide will tell you when and where to go and the unique things you can look forward to observing when you’re stargazing in Finland.
When to go
The time of year greatly affects stargazing conditions in Finland, because there are large differences between the summer and winter weather. During most of the summer, the midnight sun makes it too bright to observe any stars; conditions are better during the prime stargazing seasons of spring and autumn. Winter nights are incredibly long in Finland (over 20 hours long at midwinter) offering the best stargazing conditions, but the skies can often be cloudy and temperatures remain below freezing for months at a time. If you do want to risk outdoor astronomy in Finland during the winter, you will need to wrap up warm and take a thermos of something hot. Use Accuweather for astronomy conditions throughout Finland and Timeanddate.com to find out when the planets and constellations will be visible.
Where to go
Finland is such a sparsely populated country that it is easy to find a good stargazing spot free of light pollution, even within easy reach of the cities. There are also a few observatories where you can use high-quality telescopes to see even more, for a reasonable entry fee. The best way to find out about and book time at these observatories is to join an astronomy organisation. The Ursa Astronomical Association is the largest and oldest such group in Finland and has a small observatory in Kaivopuisto Park in Helsinki with three telescopes to use, including a Merz refractor from 1928. The group also organises regular public stargazing events, which are a great way to meet other astronomers and find out more about the hobby in Finland.
Watching the northern lights
By far the biggest draw of astronomers to Finland is the unique chance to see the northern lights. Finland’s clear skies and the long night-time hours in Lapland offer some of the best views of the lights in the world. In some places, they are visible for up to 200 days of the year. The Finnish Meteorological Institute measures the probability of auroras and has an app that will send aurora alerts to your phone.
With so many people travelling to Lapland to take in the aurora, many hotels and resorts have built unique rooms such as glass igloos and tree houses to make viewing them easy, even for amateurs. These rooms have wide windows or ceilings made from special glass that doesn’t ice over, so that you can observe the night sky and the aurora even while you are falling asleep. The rooms themselves are warm and comfortable, and are usually decorated in a classic Nordic style.
Getting high-quality photos of the northern lights is practically an art in itself, but there are some classes offered on northern lights tours in Lapland that can take you through the basics. Even if the lights don’t appear, you can still get amazing, uninterrupted views of the night sky from anywhere in Finland that will inspire and astonish you.