Monday, January 21, 2008

Where and When to see the Aurora?

I've been getting many questions regarding when and where to go to see the northern lights in Alaska. I've addressed these questions briefly in an aurora article on line, but will reiterate some of that here. The aurora can be viewed frequently in Fairbanks and interior Alaska, and often in the Southern latitudes of the state, in the vicinity of Anchorage (but a lot of light pollution to avoid). The real critical factor is a clear night and a location away from light pollution. The northern edge of Fairbanks offers many locations since the aurora often appears in the northeast to southeast sky, which if you are on the north side of town, means that your camera will be pointed away from the city light pollution to the south. (and there is no light pollution north of Fairbanks!)

Aurora borealis over the Beaufort sea, Barter Island, Alaska
Canon 1Ds Mark II, 16-35mm f2.8L, 25 sec. @ f2.8, ISO 800

Aurora activity is directly connected with solar storm activity on the surface of the sun. Therefore, being aware of this will help determine the optimal times for viewing the most active aurora displays. The Spring and Vernal equinoxes have been noted as especially good times (March 21/Sept 21 - approximately) However, I've seen amazing aurora during all times of the year. Furthermore, nights forecasted to be low or moderate in activity can still be good for photography, it just may mean less colorful, and shorter displays. A few web sites offer forecasts of aurora activity:

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