With winter almost here, are you hunting for places to visit? Well, your search ends now! Winter is the perfect time for paying a visit to Alaska to see the glorious northern lights. To fully enjoy the glory and magnificence of this heavenly display, you have to stay under the ever-changing lights and silently watch them curve and curl, slide and glimmer.
Terry Onsager experienced the spectacular view of the Northern lights or Aurora in Northern Norway. Basically, it is the best place to see these lights. You can also follow his footsteps or you can make your own track, it is up to you. The best time to see these auroras is between winter and spring season. It will be a thrilling moment to see the auroras with your own eyes. The cause of this wonderful phenomenon is that the solar particles are blown towards the earth’s magnetic field more than 60 miles above the earth’s surface.
What Are Northern Lights
Polar lights or Aurora Polaris are a natural occurrence actually found in both the northern and southern hemispheres that can be a truly wonderful experience. The Scientific name of Northern lights is Aurora Borealis. Aurora region is the most active place in Alaska in Arctic region. Tourists are very enthusiastic when they see the nature’s divine light show in the night. The lights are so heavenly vibrant it is like that God is doing the show of light. You can see them in some areas such as Greenland or Alaska in the most of nights throughout the year. The colors and the different patterns of the lights and their shapes make you feel that you are in a space.
How The Northern Lights are Formed
On the surface of the sun when solar activity exhales a cloud of gas, the Aurora is born. It is an electrostatic phenomenon. This is called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) by all the scientists. The collision takes place with the Earth’s magnetic field. This magnetic field is actually invisible. If you are able to see the shape of this it is like a comet with a long magnetic tail stretching the earth in the opposite direction of the sun.
When a collision of coronal mass ejection takes place with the magnetic field, it results in complex changes to happen in the magnetic tail region. These changes then produce currents of charged particles, after which they flow with lines of magnetic force towards the Polar Regions. These particles are enhanced in energy in Earth’s higher atmosphere. When oxygen and nitrogen atoms collide with these particles, they just produce stunning auroral lights.
The color of the gases is different. Yellow-green light is the most common color because of excitation of Oxygen atoms. Blue and violet lights occur because of ionized molecular Nitrogen. At lower altitudes, you will see vivid red color because of excited molecules of oxygen and Nitrogen. These three are the basic colors.
Pierre Gassende in 1621 named these Northen lights as Aurora Borealis. He first thought that it is a bright sunrise because it has a reddish pink color. But after some scientific research, it was clear that these are Northern lights and appeared in the deep dark. Scientists again said that “Aurora is really so beautiful, but the invisible flows of these particles and magnetism going on the same time can also be the reason of damaging of our electrical power grid and satellites which are operating in space too.” This is the reason why scientists are so eager to know the physics of Aurora and these solar storms so that we are able to keep our technology safe and secure.
Best Time to See Northern Lights in Alaska
To fully enjoy the glory and magnificence of this heavenly display, you have to stay under the ever-changing lights and silently watch them… curve and curl, slide and glimmer.
Terry Onsager experienced the Northern lights or Aurora in Northern Norway. Basically, it is the best place to see these lights. You can also follow his footsteps or you can make your own track, it is up to you. But the only thing you need to know that when to go.
Late in summer is also a good time to spend your vacations in that place. But the best time to see these auroras is between winter and spring season. Really, it will be a thrilling moment to see these auroras with your own eyes. Here are some suggestions to plan the trip according to the best time to see northern lights in Alaska.
- If you are ready to view this amazing aurora lights and plan a trip for the same then you should not plan this trip in the middle of the summer. There is absolutely no sense in doing this. You need complete darkness to see these lights and during summer it is less in places in the auroral zone. The sky should be clear all around. Spring and winter time is less cloudy than autumn in the northern auroral zone. That is the reason you should plan your trip between December and April. You may be able to see these lights clearly during these months.
- Coincide your trip time with the new moon. Make sure that you are away from city lights when you want to see northern lights. It needs complete darkness. Dress warm and plan to watch from 10 PM to 2 AM. Although an active period of these lights can occur at any time during dark hours. This period is about 30 minutes of duration and if the activity is very high then it may occur every two hours. These lights have irregular occurrence. It may occur randomly or not at all.
- You can get an idea or updates from aurora forecast institute i.e. Geophysical Institute about how active these northern lights are in your place. This is just an amazing experience to see these lights live. Don’t miss the opportunity at all.
- Being aware during the peak winter season, when all around weather is coldest and nights are darkest then waking up at midnight will definitely not waste your time. You will see the real heaven on the earth. Just believe that your time and money will be totally worth it. You can also make your trip in late summer season i.e early September.
And finally, if you don’t want to move from your place and also want to experience these lights then there is an option made available to you by The Canadian Space Agency. This agency offers you a live feed of the skies above Yellowknife, in their territories.
Best Place to See Northern Lights in Alaska
You always want the best for your kids. So, why not start by providing them the best view of the Northern lights? Following are the key places to see the aurora lights at their full glory. You can plan the visit as per your convenience.
Although you can probably see northern lights all over the state, the utmost reliable place is Fairbanks. Up and inland, Fairbanks geographically comes under the “auroral oval,” where auroras are seen more often. You can also go outing for several hours north from there, generally offered by operators like Northern Alaska Tour Company. You can take a trip and enjoy the heavenly feeling to the fullest. This tour can also take you to areas like Murphy Dome or Chena Lake.
2. Denali National Park
Denali National Park situated between Anchorage and Fairbanks, also known for the highest mountain peak in North America. It is a perfect place to see the Northern Lights. It is only a 3-hour drive south of Fairbanks, you can spot the auroras out here. Because of lack of light and less pollution, it is a wonderful destination for a marvelous Northern Lights view. Best way to see the northern light in this area is to book a lodge around this park because these lights occur in a random fashion and may not be visible daily. Many lodges give you the facility to ring a wake-up alarm when these lights appear.
Although Fairbanks is the best place to see the Northern Lights, one more place can also get a wonderful show, that is Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. If you are going to Anchorage then Salmon Berry Tours offer an overnight and multi-day tour to Talkeetna and Fairbanks too. They provide transportation facilities so that you can enjoy your experience without any hassles in the way.
4. Brooks Range
Another option is that you can book a multi-day stay at Iniakuk Wilderness Lodge. This remote lodge is 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 200 miles north of Fairbanks. It’s a low-profile lodge so no disturbance of city lights is here. It’s a fabulous idea that you spend the whole day in snowshoeing or dog sledding. At coldest and darkest midnight heavenly lights are waiting for you to dance with you. Trust me, it will be a fabulous and unbelievably awesome day of your life.
Nome is another place to see the Northern Lights. In this visit, you can get a chance to dog mush and also watch some of the World’s best racers. There are various things to enjoy like snow machine races, bar game tournaments, basketball, craft fairs and art shows apart from viewing the Northern Lights. These Northern lights are not seen every night but when it is seen the experience is just breathtaking. The local residents will be more than thrilled to help you out and guide you through your journey.
Coldfoot is basically known as a truck stop because previously it was served as a truck stop. This is also a perfect place to view the auroras. It is a town of 10 in the Yukon region in northern Alaska. Arctic Circle Aurora Fly & Drive Adventures will make your visit to Coldfoot worthwhile and also keep you in a cozy, comfortable tour van to see the beauty of these lights.
Barrow, a small town, is situated on the very top of the country’s largest state is just about 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. You can see the aurora show by simply looking out of the window. Mind you, the temperature drops to negatives here! In this town, you can also enjoy its native culture where dog sledding is a traditional game and fun to participate. You can take a flight from Anchorage to reach Barrow.
Best viewing locations for the Northern Lights in Sweden are Abisko, Kiruna, and Swedish Lapland. These areas are scientifically proven as an ideal spot for viewing the Northern Lights due to a unique microclimate.
Best Viewing locations in Finland are Kakslauttanen, Luosto, Utsjoki, Nellim, and Ivalo. Upon arrival in the Hotel Aurora, you’ll be given an “Aurora Alarm” that starts to beep whenever the northern lights are seen.
When you leave the hot and happening nightlife of the city and head out to the open area of Þingvellir National Park you can easily spot the Northern lights. Moreover, as long as you’re outside Reykjavik you can view them from almost anywhere in the country.
Sometimes it is misunderstood that the glow of city lights are actually northern lights, but in reality, Aurora starts with greenish bands moving towards the east-west direction, then sometimes changing into undulating waves. They create green, greenish-yellow, dull blue, or some time even blood red curls of color. Previously it was a myth that these lights had supernatural powers, and more than this some thought that these lights are actually the dancing spirits of the dead.
Well, call it whatever you want, there is no denying that it is a paradise on the earth. It’s a nature’s gift to Alaska. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the Northern Lights with your own eyes. So plan this winter to see the magic of God’s creation and enjoy this beautiful journey to see the Auroras. It does not matter whether you call them the northern lights or aurora borealis. Watching these beautiful green dancing bands of light in the sky is really an amazing experience that you must have at least once in your lifetime.