How To See Northern Lights, a Natural Phenomenon that Doesn’t Disappoint

how to see northern lights

The Northern Lights are typically seen in high latitude areas such as Alaska and Iceland. The lights can be seen from August to April because these months have long periods of darkness during which there is enough darkness for them to be visible.

The Northern Light is a natural phenomenon that happens in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is induced by electrically charged particles from the Sun that enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases.

But during major solar events, the Aurora can be seen across a large expanse of the planet in both the northern and southern hemispheres.


What Month Is Best for viewing Northern Lights

Auroras can happen nearly anytime, but there are aurora “seasons” and “cycles.” The solar process is approximately 11 years long, with solar maximum bringing more significant auroral activity.

Their last solar maximum years were 1980, 1990, 2001, and 2012. We are moving toward another solar maximum in about 2025.

Even during times of solar minimum, auroras can and do occur. 

A large solar flare that erupts from the Sun and heads toward Earth will impact the upper atmosphere.

When the solar plasma collides with molecules in our atmosphere, they become excited and emit the colors you see in the sky, from green to blue to red.

Spring and fall, specifically the months of March, April, September, and October, bring the most prominent occurrence of Aurora.

You can watch the Sun’s activity level at websites such as, checking on the number of sunspots and if any flares have recently been ejected from the surface of the Sun. 

NOAA’s POES website is another place to check and see the current auroral oval and the activity level, with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest.

Where Is The Best Place To See The Northern Lights in the USA

The Northern and Southern Hemispheres have identical amounts of auroral activity. Still, those in the north see more Aurora simply due to the more significant number of people there and more landmass in polar regions. While those in places such as South America and Australia witness the lights, people in northern locations such as Alaska, Norway, and Russia regularly see the lights.

The northern lights have been witnessed as far south as Arizona and Florida during major solar events. Keeping a close tab on the auroral oval through the POES maps will let you know when is a good chance to go outside and look.

Another factor important in location is being away from city lights. Even if it’s just the beaming light of a neighbor’s garage, light pollution will make it difficult to see the filmy, wispy northern lights. Find a location in the countryside or away from local lights for the best view.

Taking a Trip to See the Aurora 

In the USA, Alaska is the most popular choice for people who desire to witness the northern or southern lights at least once in their lifetime.

Trips to Alaska combine visits to the Alaskan pipeline and Denali National Park with views of the northern lights from outdoor hot tubs.

Other travel itineraries to see the northern lights include Canada, Norway, and Iceland.

Remember that due to their locations near the Arctic Circle, these trips must be taken during cold weather when it is dark for long hours, as opposed to the warmer months when darkness at night is sometimes nonexistent.

Cities in Alaska to observe the Northern Lights:

  • Fairbanks
  • Coldfoot
  • Wiseman
  • Utqiagvik (Barrow)
  • Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse

How the Northern Lights Impact Your Health and Technology

The Northern Lights have been seen as a sign of good luck and have also been used to predict the weather.

There are many myths about the Northern Lights and how they can affect your health.

– Some people say that the Northern Lights can help you sleep better at night because of their calming effect on your brainwaves

– Others believe that the northern lights can help with mental illnesses by regulating hormones in the brain or even treating depression or anxiety

But science has yet to find a connection between the aurora borealis and human health, except that people remain amazed and feel fulfilled or inspired when they finally see the Aurora.

But they have been known to have an impact on technology. This is because the Northern Lights generate a large amount of electromagnetic energy, disrupting radio waves, communications, and power grids. This is why some people believe that the Northern lights are causing global warming because it has been disrupting the Earth’s magnetic field.

Best Place in Europe to See Northern Lights

  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Finland

How is Aurora Borealis different from Aurora Australis?

It is not. Matching Auroral patterns form concurrently in the Arctic and Antarctic areas. However, because the southern hemisphere’s Auroral zone (where the Aurora actually includes) primarily only spans the ocean (and a sliver of Antarctica), far fewer people get to experience the Aurora Australis.

What is a Geomagnetic Storm?

A geomagnetic storm is a brief disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave.

The solar wind is a stream of charged particles that flows outward from the Sun in all directions. When the solar wind interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, it can cause changes in the intensity of Earth’s magnetic field and create auroras.

Geomagnetic storms are most often observed when their associated solar winds cause Earth’s magnetic field lines to stretch out, sometimes breaking and reconnecting. This creates an electric current through the magnetosphere that generates large quantities of electromagnetic radiation across many frequencies.

Fun fact: Mars doesn’t have a magnetosphere. The lack of a magnetosphere on Mars allows solar wind to flow into the Martian atmosphere, which can strip away molecules from the upper atmosphere.

Northern Lights & Galileo Galilei

The Northern Lights were named by Galileo Galilei in 1619. He could see them from his observatory in Italy when he used a telescope to view the Sun during an eclipse. He called them “Aurora Borealis,” Latin for” sunrise wind.”

Apparently, he saw Northern lights at sunrise when it was windy :).

How long do the northern lights last?

The length of time that we see them depends on how much energy is released by the CMEs-coronal mass ejections. If there is a lot of energy emitted from these events, it will cause a large disturbance in Earth’s magnetic field and create an aurora borealis from a few minutes to longer periods of time, even all night long.

How do you take a picture of the Northern Lights?

The best way to photograph the Northern Lights is with a DSLR camera because of its sensitivity to low light and long exposure capabilities. However, if you don’t have one, then you can use an iPhone or Android phone with these settings:

iPhone settings:

Switch on Stars Mode (a green icon indicates that it is active).
You can now take a photo by tapping the shutter and waiting roughly 15 seconds.
If the lights are too dim, consider turning on Light Boost to help bring them out. The “sun icon” button activates Light Boost.

Android settings :

If possible, set your phone to night mode. And pint and shoot.
Or go to PRO MODE, set the exposure to around 10 seconds and the ISO to 800, and then freely adjust if the Aurora isn’t as brilliant as you’d want.
When this happens, consider taking a shorter exposure with a lower ISO.
Don’t forget to use a tripod.

Conclusion: The Most Interesting Facts about the Northern Lights

I love chasing Northern Lights because of the sense of excitement, the feeling of joy and awe – it’s so surreal.

The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that has been observed for centuries. It is a spectacular light show that appears in the sky when the Sun’s energy interacts with particles from the Earth’s atmosphere.

The northern lights have often been used as inspiration for artists and writers. They have also been used to represent beauty and are often unforgettable events for people who get to see them.

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