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Chasing Auroras In The Land Of The Midnight Sun
If you’re planning a trip to Alaska to see the Northern Lights, you probably are asking: “When can we see the Northern Lights in Alaska?” And although information about Aurora adventure trips can be overwhelming, there are a few hard and fast rules about the Northern Lights that can help guarantee you a sighting of this amazing phenomenon during your Alaska vacation. Keep reading to have all of your questions answered!
When Does The Aurora Borealis Occur In Alaska?
Many of the travelers who come to Alaska time their trip to see the aurora borealis, aka the Northern Lights. If an aurora sighting is on your bucket list, the best time to visit is between the months of August and April – which is commonly known as “Aurora Season.” During this time, the combination of clear night skies and medium-to-high aurora activity makes spotting these lights in the night sky relatively easy.
If you’re still scratching your head and asking when is the Northern Lights visible in Alaska, just remember that the Northern Lights become intense around the spring and fall equinoxes (March and September). This gives you a great opportunity to see the Northern Lights in the night sky! The intense display occurs because the Earth’s tilt in relation to the sun means that our planet’s magnetic field and the solar winds are in sync. Add to that relatively clear skies during the spring and fall season, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a magical aurora sighting!
Tips For A Guaranteed Aurora Sighting
Now that you’ve asked when the Northern Lights are visible in Alaska, you may be wondering how you can make sure that you see them during your trip! Here are a few things to remember that should make your chances of seeing the aurora borealis much more likely:
- Location – there are places in Alaska where you are more likely to see the Northern Lights. Fairbanks is a great place to see the Northern Lights, as is many locations toward the Arctic Circle. This is because Fairbanks (and points North) sit directly under the Auroral Oval, where aurora activity is concentrated. The city is also easy for tourists to fly into and has plenty of accommodations and guided tours for those who do not want to search for the Northern Lights on their own.
- Plan on staying a few days – experts suggest staying in Fairbanks for a minimum of three nights, and to plan on scanning the skies each of those nights if you want to see the Northern Lights! If you do this, you have a 90 percent chance of seeing the aurora. Of course, you may want to stay even longer in order to plan other activities for your vacation.
- Pull an all-nighter – the best time to see the aurora is between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. If you really want to answer the question when does the aurora borealis occur in Alaska, you’ll need to pour yourself a strong cup of coffee and settle in for a (possibly) long wait.
- Pay attention to the weather – the key to Aurora viewing is clear skies. The good news is that Fairbanks generally sees less precipitation than the rest of the state. That means that Aurora Season brings plenty of clear nights for Northern Lights viewing!
- Get away from the city – to see the aurora, you need a dark sky. It’s generally a good idea to get away from the light pollution of the city and to go a few miles outside of Fairbanks to get a view of this spectacular show.
- Book a tour – an expert guide can really improve your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. As an added bonus, having a few new friends to wait with you in the dark night can make the adventure a little more pleasant!
- Track the aurora – in an effort to answer when the Northern Lights are visible in Alaska, the Geophysical Institute at the University of Fairbanks created the Aurora Tracker. This handy tool takes the weather forecast from six locations and correlates that with the amount of darkness and aurora forecast to give a good baseline prediction of if the aurora will appear in the sky – and when.
What Else Can I Do In Alaska?
Even if the main reason you are traveling to Alaska is to see the Northern Lights, there are still plenty of things to do and see on your trip! Of course, what you do and what you see depends on the time of year that you visit Alaska. If you plan your trip during late August and the first half of September, you’ll still have time to enjoy summer activities and attractions while chasing the Northern Lights at night. A fall trip to Alaska is unique in that you will be able to enjoy the breathtaking fall colors as they unfold across the tundra. Of course, winter expeditions offer long, dark nights and all the winter activities you can enjoy! In addition to the dazzling display of auroras in the night sky, winter brings dog sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, glacier trekking, snowmobiling, and so much more.
Now that you know when the aurora borealis occurs in Alaska and when you can see the Northern Lights in Alaska, get planning! Adventure is just a plane ride away!