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Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience this rare and mystical event. Find out more about the Northern Lights and what you need to know to make your viewing trip a success. Trust us; this is something worth waking up in the middle of the night for. Peak viewing season is in the dead of winter, when the weather is the coldest and when it is the darkest. However, there are opportunities to see the northern lights at the tail end of the summer season in early September. If this experience is a priority for you, hold out for winter and bundle up. You won’t regret it.
Since you can only see them at night, you want to come when there is the most darkness—from September until about April 20; that’s when there are: 1) frequent displays, 2) clear skies, and 3) generally mild weather.
While you can potentially see them all over the state, the most reliable spot is Fairbanks. Up and inland, Fairbanks is geographically under the "aurora oval," where auroras are seen most frequently. You can even take excursions several hours north from there, offered by operators such as Northern Alaska Tour Company.
The aurora is unpredictable, and no one's entirely sure when—or where—it's going to appear. But here are some tips to give you the best odds of seeing the aurora in Alaska.
Start looking about an hour and a half after sunset, but peak auroral activity is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. solar time. (Solar time is 2.5 hours after clock time during daylight saving time (and 1.5 hours after during standard daylight time. That means the best time for seeing the aurora during Alaska's winter is 11:30 p.m.–3:30 a.m. with the peak at 1:30 a.m. During Alaska's spring and fall (September and March), the best time to view the aurora is 12:30 a.m.– 4:30 a.m.
If it's clear and dark enough to see stars, there's a chance you'll be able to see the aurora. If there's even partly cloudy skies? You have a chance, but it needs to be a strong aurora for you to see it. Check out these two prediction tools:
Probably not—unless you're cruising at the end of the season in September, when you'll get more darkness.
Bundle up- Alaska gets mighty cold. Dress in layers and pay attention to the fabrics you choose. For a cold Alaska evening you need:
It’s often hard to distinguish between the faint glow of city lights, moonlight reflecting off clouds, or a weak aurora. So if you don’t know what to look for, you could be watching the wrong thing.
Here’s what will happen. Auroras start as faintly glowing bands of greenish white light that tend to run in an east-west direction. They start in the northern part of the sky and often appear static and stationary. But as they build in intensity, they become more dynamic in color and position, moving south.With increased intensity, auroras begin to resemble curtains hung vertically in the sky that are rippling in a light wind. As they reach maximum intensity, these curtains deform into arcs and spirals that can arc dramatically between the visible horizons. At these greater levels of activity, auroras are unmistakable to most all viewers.However, you must often watch a faint patch of light closely for an extended period of time before it transforms into a more distinctive display. These intense displays tend to last for 20 – 30 minutes. The aurora will begin to fade, but a second peak of activity can occur 1 – 2 hours later.
One other tip: you have a much better chance of seeing the aurora in Alaska if you drink lots of water before you go to bed!
No matter what you call them—the northern lights, or aurora borealis—these green bands of light in the sky are seriously cool to see. They're actually solar particles blown into the earth's magnetic field more than 60 miles above the earth's surface. Some people mistakenly think that the glow of city lights are northern lights, but the real thing starts as greenish bands that move in east-west direction, then sometimes evolve into undulating waves. They create greenish-yellow, faint blue, or even blood red curtains of color. Alaska Native groups once believed the lights had mystical powers, or were even the dancing spirits of the dead.
Northern Alaska Tour Company offers a diverse selection of tours designed to get you under the northern lights. Tours start in Fairbanks and include trips north to Coldfoot, a remote town perfectly situated under the "auroral oval," where you will find the best displays of northern lights. Northern lights trips run from late August to late April when the skies are dark and auroral activity is common. Plan on spending a few days in Fairbanks to catch the best displays.
Northern Alaska Tour Company offers a diverse selection of tours designed to get you under…