The aurora borealis, or northern lights, is an astronomical phenomenon caused by magnetic winds falling toward Earth after solar storms on the surface of the sun. When these magnetic winds interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, the opposing magnetic fields result in dazzling displays of color and light that dance across the sky. Viewing the northern lights, whether it’s for the first time or the hundredth time, can be an amazing and transformative experience.
These exciting, awe-inspiring events have dazzled people in the northern reaches of the globe for centuries. Stories of dancing lights in the sky populate the mythologies of many indigenous peoples throughout Alaska, Northern Canada and beyond.
If you’re planning a trip to the Last Frontier State in the near future, you may be wondering how you can optimize your chances of seeing the northern lights in Alaska. While the event really depends on unpredictable solar flares, there are a number of steps that you can take that will increase your chances of seeing the lights, including:
Plan for the right time of year: If you’re hoping to see the northern lights in Alaska, don’t visit in the summertime! The near constant daylight makes it impossible to see space weather activity, regardless of how strong it may be. The northern lights are most visible during the equinox months of March and September, thanks to the tilt of the Earth’s axis.
Go north: The further north you are, the more likely it is that you’ll experience the northern lights. It’s advisable to start in Fairbanks, and travel north from there if you hope to see the northern lights. While it is possible to see them in the more southerly areas around Anchorage or on the Alaska Panhandle, it’s a substantially lower chance.
Check the predictions: Check up on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Space Weather Prediction Center for up-to-date predictions on solar activity. Additionally, checking the regular weather forecast can help you determine if the sky will be clear enough to see any space weather activity.
Get out of town: Don’t expect to see the northern lights in Alaska in the center of Fairbanks, or any other mid-size town, for that matter. Your best chance of receiving an immersive northern lights experience is to get far out of town, away from the bright lights of the city.
If you’re hoping to truly optimize your chances of seeing the aurora borealis while traveling in Alaska, your best bet is to book a spot with a special northern lights tour.
Alaska Wild Guides is a wilderness adventure tour company in Girdwood, AK offering extensive tours of the Last Frontier State, including tours designed to help guests see the northern lights in Alaska. To learn more about our comprehensive range of wilderness adventure tours, or to join in our next Northern Lights tour, reach out to one of our friendly, knowledgeable representatives today. We strive to provide each and every one of our guests with an awe-inspiring, once-in-a-lifetime experience that they’re sure to remember.