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Star Time, Sun Time

Since the dawn of time, humans have been looking up to the skies for inspiration, navigation, or charting the passage of seasons and time.

The sky over the polar regions, like Norway, is special. In the winter, short days begin to resemble sunsets, casting little light until, at winter solstice in December, the sun doesn’t rise over the horizon at all.

The Vikings watched and named the stars and saw in the constellations images from the Norse mythology:

  • Hyades: Ulf's Keptr, or 'The Mouth of the Wolf', likely one of two important wolves from the Norse myths
  • Orion’s Belt: Fiskikarlar, or 'The Fisherman'
  • Ursa Minor (The Little Dipper): Kvennavagn, 'The Woman's Chariot', possibly the goddess Freya’s
  • Ursa Major (The Big Dipper): Karlvagn, 'The Man's Chariot', possibly Odin’s, but more likely Thor’s

Unlike ancient Polynesians, who followed ‘star paths,’ the Viking explorers rarely used stars as navigational aids because the stars disappeared for months in the summer with the midnight sun. Instead, they navigated by combining observations of stars, mainly the North Star, with local geographical features, and wildlife, such as birds who only flew short distances from the shore. Experts also believe the Vikings used a sundial to identify celestial north in the middle of each day when they couldn’t see the North Star at night.

It is clear that the Vikings were aware of 'star time' and 'sun time'. Here are some of our best voyages for watching the skies, any time of year.

Star Time

Polar nights on Hurtigruten’s winter Coastal Norway Voyages are a stargazer’s dream.

The dark nights in remote locations help stargazers see the fainter stars, galaxies, and nebulas with their own eyes. We sail far from the light pollution that affects an astounding 83% of the world’s population. And with long nights, you won’t have to stay up late to see the bright Milky Way spilling across the sky. Take a look at our Quick Guide to Arctic Astronomy to see which constellations are visible from the Arctic Circle.

Search for the northern lights on our winter voyages above the Arctic Circle, in a remote area without light pollution.

Hear stories about life in space by traveling with a NASA astronaut along the coast of Norway.

Learn in person from modern astronomy experts on our Winter Astronomy Voyages.

We’re so confident that you will see the northern lights that if you don’t, we’ll give you a second chance—on us—with our Northern Lights Promise.

Sun Time

In summer, the days begin to blend together and the sky never fully darkens: After the sun goes down, a blue glow remains on the horizon, gliding slowly north, then east where it grows into dawn.

Far north in Svalbard from April to August, the sun never sets and you can appreciate the unique combination of the midnight sun, summer skies and winter landscapes north of the Arctic Circle.

Join our Polar Pioneers of Svalbard expedition to experience a unique combination of midnight sun and full winter north of the Arctic Circle.

And then, at the summer solstice in June, the midnight sun dips to the horizon, but never sets. Read about the 5 best places to see the midnight sun in Norway.  And learn about our Classic Summer Voyages.

Or sail with us on the MS Midnatsol to the Antarctic Peninsula in December—the height of summer—where there are nearly 22 hours of daylight per day illuminating the ice.  Come with us to Discover Patagonia and Antarctica.

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