Just how often IS aurora seen from the Fairbanks Alaska area?

Let me explain about the aurora being there EVERY NIGHT, every night of the year!

  • The weather cooperates, the sky is clear or somewhat clear
  • You are awake
  • You are away from light pollution and your eyes are adjusted to the dark
  • Trees or terrain isn’t blocking a low view
  • the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF) is in alignment
  • It needs to be dark or somewhat dark

The Aurora Borealis (northern lights) and Aurora Australis (southern lights) are the result of electrons colliding with Earth’s magnetic field. . The aurora typically forms 80 to 500 km (50 to 300 mi) above Earth. This means that when aurora is being seen, it can be seen from a wide area within a few hundred miles. If you are not seeing aurora in one location, driving to another spot 30 miles away will not change the aurora view, unless you are getting away from poor weather or tall trees that may be blocking the view. This is a common misconception with tourism, where people think they need to drive to all the “best spots” to see aurora, when in fact, you could stay in place and have the same view (assuming no light pollution, tall trees, and terrain blocking the sky).

If you see of list of “best spots”, it is most likely marketing tourism, or someone made a list and they are not well versed with space weather, or have no actual experience with aurora watching.

Pictured is Ovation, 30 minute forecast, with the aurora oval showing in green (or yellow or red). This is a live depiction of the data and not a satellite image of the aurora oval.

When space weather activity increases the aurora dips further south. During a larger event, the aurora can be observed as far south as the mid to northern US, mid latitude Europe, and parts of Asia. During very large events, the aurora can be observed even farther from the poles. If you live in the southern USA for example, be sure to sign up for free notifications from NOAA Space Weather for G4 or G5 events (Kp 8 or Kp 9). You will receive an email with a heads up to the possibility of seeing aurora. That will give you enough time to plan on driving away from your city’s light pollution. Typically, a person should drive at least an hour away from light pollution, although every area will differ.

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