Icelanders swap city lights for northern lights

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Lights off. Lights on.

Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and biggest city, went dark Wednesday night after the City Council switched off street lamps and encouraged residents to turn off their lights.

The goal: To get light pollution to a minimum in order to provide the best possible viewing conditions for a particularly intense display of the aurora borealis.

The lights had been predicted to appear around 9 or 10 p.m., so the city had sought to impose the blackout for an hour, starting at 10 p.m. But the show was slow to start, and the lights were kept off until midnight.

Icelandic police had warned people watching the lights to be careful, emphasizing the dangers of observing the phenomenon while in the middle of the street or in a car parked on the roadside.

Tourists and residents posted stunning images on social media.

“The lights were really strong in the last two nights. It was unbelievable,” said Florian Schade, 18, from Hamburg, Germany, who has been living in Iceland for two months and working at a bed-and-breakfast in Keflavik, in the south.

Schade took his photographs, which he posted on Instagram, on Wednesday night at a parking lot.

The northern lights, which are produced when electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth’s atmosphere collide, have been vivid in Iceland for several days.

Although the sight on Wednesday was impressive, all things are relative. The website Iceland Monitor reported that the lights were “beautiful,” but not “as impressive as on Monday.”