Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

(Arriving at our cruise’s most northerly point in Alta, Norway; Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel; Mostly clear weather forecast, now will the northern lights show up?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we finished up our visit to Tromsø and it was time to pack up and head just a little bit further north to Alta.  Here you see our bus pulling up to the ship as we get ready to leave.

We keep an eye on the map to keep in mind where we started and where we go next.  In this map screenshot, you can see the wider picture of our coming location.  Alta is located at the little blue dot in the map.  So, we are almost at rhe most northerly part of Norway, if you don’t count s9me of the islands like the Svalbard archipelago.  We heard during one of the interviews with the captain that the coast of Norway is warmer than similar locations at the same northerly latitude because of the ocean Gulf Stream which keeps the coast line warmer and mostly ice free.  But the region up around Svalbard is not as lucky and it’s ports and areas are not always ice free.  Brr, I am glad we are not going up there on this cruise!

The area around Alta, and also most of the Norwegian coast, is a combination of islands and fjords created by geological glaciers.  It makes for fantastic scenery and the rugged countryside is so beautiful.  It is also quite amazing how it reminds us of the strength and courage it takes in those folks can survive here now and in the past.

So, now we have arrived at our dock on Alta.  We are encouraged by the bright blue sky.  This is where we have our firs scheduled trip outside the city to search for the northern lights.  In the photo below you can see some clouds in the blue sky above the airport in Alta.

View of the airport from the Viking Sky Explorer Lounge

And in this photo, we can actually see the sun.  This was actually quite a treat in that the sun rises lates and goes down early and has also been hidden beh8nd clouds during most of our other stops.

Finally we see the sun in Alta, Norway

So, with the sun out, we were a little bit worried about getting too hot, so we set off in a taxi to take in the Igloo Hotel.  This hotel is made completely out of ice and is created fresh each year, often with a different theme, after the previous version melts in the spring.  You might have also seen some scenes from similar ice hotels in a James Bond movie.

The inside of the hotel has many ice carvings and wall decorations also carved in ice.  The rooms and suites are pretty spartan with just a bed, covered with reindeer hides, maybe a table and chair, and just a hanging curtain for a door.  You can get a room at about $300 per night.

We saw many of the hotel rooms and suites.  Most were pretty Spartan and bare, but some came with wall art and sculptured art.  The bed was covered with reindeer hide.  There was not mich there except sometimes a table and chair, all made out of ice.  If you needed to find a bathroom in the middle of the night?  Sorry, you have to put on your heavy coat and walk outside.

In this image you can see Resident Astronomer Peggy coming out of one of the rooms into the long hallway.  At the end of the hallway is where the bar. Is located.

the light behind Resident Astronomer Peggy in the Igloo Hotel is the bar

The bar too is made completely out of ice and hen we visited, only served one vodka concoction, so we had to try a couple of them.  It was pretty delicious stuff, all served in an ice glass.  It was pretty cold to the touch and quite slippery too and I was a bit worried that it would melt in my hand.  I was almost tempted to put my gloves back one just to finish the cocktail.  But no worries, the ice glass held up just fine!  I did kind of daydream a bit about having a martini in a martini glass mad completely out of ice, but it just wasn’t going to happen!

Enjoying the bar at the Sorrisnava Igloo Hotel Bar

Ok, time for the last swallow.  Umm, good!  That vodka drink was delicious and the glass was so cold!  Anyway, it’s time to head back to the ship.  Our taxi driver was waiting for us outside and off we went.  Now we need to have dinner and maybe put on another thermal layer and get ready for our night out in the Norwegian night waiting for the northern lights.  The weather looks pretty good but we have been disappointed before.  So what will happen?  Stay tuned for the next post, in which I hope we can present a successful happy conclusion with photos of the northern lights!

Until next time,
Resident Astronomer George

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