Aurora Borealis Helsinki Finland May 2024

Capturing the G4 Geomagnetic Storm’s Aurora Over Helsinki

This is a photo collage of the stunning aurora borealis that painted the sky in multitude of colors in Helsinki in the night of Friday May 10th to Saturday May 11th. Earlier that day, the solar storm causing the northern lights, was classified as a G4 storm, the first severe geomagnetic storm in almost 20 years. The extreme event was the consequence of several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) reaching the earth, partially merging on their way from the sun. This event, not completely coincidentally, occurred as the sun is nearing the peak in it’s 11 year solar cycle.

As the evening progressed in Helsinki, local time, first images from beautiful auroras from places like New-Zealand and Russia came in, at very low latitudes. In anticipation, I watched the sky consistently after the sun set, knowing that the aurora activity should peak after midnight.

As it is already May, Helsinki, located just above 60° latitude, does not see full darkness in the night anymore. Nautical twilight, between 22:46 and 03:49 is the darkest it gets, according to


The first auroras captured on camera around 23:15 local time/20:15 UTC.

At 23:15 local time (Eastern European Summer Time; EEST), or 20:15 UTC, I noticed the first northern lights on my camera. From that point on, the aurora became very strongly visible very fast, as the ‘darkness’ set in.

This marked a first wave of very bright auroras, dancing overhead and filling the horizon, even towards the south. The auroras where remarkably purple. Given the fact that the night doesn’t get completely dark as it is already mid-May, the presence of strong light polution in Helsinki and the fact that auroras were dancing overhead/on the southern horizon, rather than on the usual north, the absurdity of this event became clear. My partner Anna and I have seen aurora’s in Helsinki before (although it’s uncommon), but generally they are faint, green and on the northern horizon, and only visible between October and April.

Strong green and purple auroras over Helsinki, clearly visible with the naked eye despite it not getting fully dark.

Soon after the show started, I got notifications from family members and friends in the Netherlands, who also were able to see northern lights, a very rare occurence at that latitude. After a show of about half an hour. Things calmed down – temporarily.

In anticipation of a ‘2nd wave’, we went outside again at 1:15 local time/22:15 UTC. Despite the severe geomagnetic storm forecasts, the show we got to see was truly astounding. Never did I see auroras this purple in Helsinki. At some point, the auroras even turned blue, and the colors were astonishingly bright. The timing of the northern lights was good, as this was approximately the darkest time of the night.

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The auroras got brighter and brighter, peaking between 1:15-1:30 local time/22:15-22:30 UTC, with bright purple, blue and sometimes something approximating a faint, white color. Swipe through the gallery to see all photos!

Although the colors became slightly less saturated and concentrated after that, the show went on. At the same time, the skies gradually became lighter in Helsinki too, making that the auroras stood out less. Still, the show was going on.

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Insanely tall pillars and magnificent colors kept going, until the increased brightness of the sky made it hard to see.

Eventually, around 2:10 local time, or 23:10 UTC, we had to aboard the mission. There was still a faint red/purple spectacle going on, however, the sky was brightening up as the sun was creeping towards the horizon, and the auroras gradually disappeared for the bare eye. Nevertheless, photos showed that the sky was still full of colors, that we just couldn’t see with the naked eye anymore.

The sky was brightening up so much that the aurora was barely visible with the naked eye anymore. However, photos showed that the aurora was definitely still very actively present – see the 2nd photo in the gallery.

Around 22:54 UTC, the G5 geomagnetic storm threshold was reached, corresponding to a Kp value of 9. However, soon after this point, it was too unfortunately too light in Helsinki to admire the spectacle.

In other places, even much further south than Finland, to show kept going on for many more hours.

This truly was a night I never expected to experience in Helsinki.

All photos were taken with iPhone 13 Pro. None of the photos were post-processed.

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