The fact is, the northern lights are relatively unpredictable. Charged solar particles drawn through space, travel toward the magnetic north (and south) poles where they hit the earth’s atmosphere and bloom in an array of green, yellow, red and purple ribbons of light. It’s hard to be sure exactly when and where the cosmic light show is going to emerge, but there are ways to increase your odds of viewing them this winter.
The beginning and end months of Alaska’s winter season are often when the northern lights appear most frequently — skies are typically clear then and the weather more mild. But any clear dark night in Alaska is a perfect opportunity to catch a glimpse. Late night and early morning sightings are most common, away from the glow of city lights. Alaska’s Interior and Far North regions are some of the world’s best northern lights viewing locales.
Fairbanks, the second largest city in the state, is close to one of the most highly active areas of the northern lights in Alaska’s Interior. Several lodges and tour operations offer winter packages and excursions for travelers wanting to increase their chance at viewing the northern lights. Aurora viewing tours are also available from nearby Chena Hot Springs, about an hour drive from Fairbanks. Guests here can gaze at the chilly night sky from the comfort of the relaxing hot springs, and northern lights sightings here are some of the best in the state.
Travelers looking for a more remote experience will enjoy a trip by land or air into Alaska’s Far North region. Many communities here such as Coldfoot or Barrow are located directly under the auroral oval, an area prone to intense aurora activity. Several northern lights viewing tours are based from the communities dotting the Arctic Circle, or Fairbanks is a convenient jumping off point for northbound viewing tours.
Before you go, make use of available aurora resources such as the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute’s forecasting tool. Short and long-term functions designed in a variety of steps help travelers in the planning process by predicting aurora conditions on a daily basis. Many hotels throughout Alaska’s northern lights viewing hot zone also offer special aurora wake-up calls, so guests don’t need to worry about missing the show.
For more information on northern lights viewing, click here.