Northern lights seen over Estonia Monday night

The northern lights over Estonia on the night of September 18, 2023.
The northern lights over Estonia on the night of September 18, 2023. Source: Matthijs Quaijtaal

The northern lights (aurora borealis) were visible in the skies over Estonia late on Monday, with plenty of spectacular photos following in the pages of social media and the mainstream media alike.

Meteorologist Kairo Kiitsak told evening paper Õhtuleht ahead of the event that the best times to view the Northern Lights (Estonian: Virmalised) came between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., particularly in Northern Estonia as might be expected, though South Estonia was also in for a treat.

Regional daily Tartu Postimees reported that the phenomenon could be seen, for instance, in Veie, Jõgeva County, in Vahi, near Tartu, and in Palupera, near Elva, Tartu County.

The northern lights, with Viimsi Tuletorn at left. Source: Matthijs Quaijtaal

Dutch national and Haabneeme resident Matthijs Quaijtaal, who has snapped the northern lights many times before, said Monday night's spectacle was far above average.

Quaijtaal told ERR News that: "When it comes to northern lights photography, it's not too different from astro photography."

The northern lights over Estonia on the night of September 18, 2023. Source: Matthijs Quaijtaal

"You need a tripod and a wide angle lens, an exposure time of a few seconds and, most of all, a place with not too much light pollution."

"Yesterday's lights, however, were strong enough to overcome even city center light pollution, with people taking photos from their balconies in Kalamaja," he went on.

The northern lights are formed when solar wind from the Sun is captured by the Earth's magnetic field. Source: Matthijs Quaijtaal

"Even newer telephone cameras can get great photos of them these days. Despite the technical approach, it still is magical every time."

Quaijtaal said that framing photos of the northern lights is ideal – this could include tree-lines or rocky beaches, but objects like buildings or ships also serve the purpose.

A boat at Leppneeme Sadam in Viimsi, against a backdrop of the northern lights. Source: Matthijs Quaijtaal

For those interested in taking their own pictures, or viewing the aurora generally, there are plenty of pointers, Quaijtaal added. is a site which sends notifications, while the Eestimaa Virmalised Facebook group provides further pointers.

Viimsi Tuletorn and the northern lights, Monday, September 18. Source: Matthijs Quaijtaal

As the name suggest, the northern lights are most prominently visible at higher latitudes. They are formed when solar wind, consisting of charged particles emanating from the Sun, are captured by the Earth's magnetic field and drawn towards the poles at a very high speed, and lead to dynamic light patterns such as curtains, rays, spirals, often covering the entire sky. Green is the predominant color, though red and blue northern lights are also observed.

The Southern Hemisphere's counterpart is known as the southern lights, or the aurora australis.

The northern lights over Estonia on the night of September 18, 2023. Source: Matthijs Quaijtaal

Quaijtaal told ERR News that Monday's phenomenon accompanied a coronal mass ejection; this is a magnetic field and accompanying plasma mass, ejected from the sun's corona into the heliosphere, the sun's outermost atmospheric layer.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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