I want to see the northern lights

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#1
Texas
567 Posts
Joined May 2006
When is the best time and place to see them?

Tammy
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#2
Fairbanks, AK
4,777 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
The hubby was out walking the dog for the last time of the day (she expects several walks each day no matter what the time of year or weather) several nights ago and we had a faint aurora. But to answer the OP's question, you need to be in the north when it is dark to have any possibility. In Fairbanks the best viewing is generally from late September-early October to March. However, several year ago in late August we had several nights of fairly decent auroral displays. Since the aurora's can be predicted there are several websites to check. In my opinion the best website is the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute (www.gi.alaska.edu/).
#3
Syracuse, New York
49,110 Posts
Joined May 2000
IF this is a priority, then the crusieseason, isn't the best choice.

IF you only want this timeframe, then I suggest a northbound cruise end of August, into first week of Sept. Follow with a stop at Denali Park for a couple days. Then park yourself in the Fairbanks area for at least two weeks. AND hope for luck.

To consider any less time, is setting yourself up for disappointment. DAILY- chech the aurora prediction sites, and be "available" for many hours of nighttime viewing. Having your own car and a very specific lodging location is absollutely necessary in my opinion.

Otherwise, perhaps consider a March trip. Decent temps and daylight.
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#4
Sechelt, BC & Fort Mohave, AZ
26,679 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
It is unlikely that you will see the Northern Lights from a cruise ship in coastal Alaska during the cruise season. There are the occasional sightings but that is extremely rare.
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#6
Texas
567 Posts
Joined May 2006
Wow, what incredible pictures of them. I can't imagine how it would be to actually see them. Thanks for the info.

Tammy
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#7
virginia
7,221 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
My first reaction to your query was, "good luck." We were on a cruise that left Vancouver August 31. We landed in seward and toured AK (Denali and Anchorage) until out flight home just before midnight Sept 11. A couple of people on our roll call went on to Fairbanks and stayed for 7+ days on land. They saw the lights (a little) on Sept 8 and big displays on Sept 12th. We left one day too soon.

We were in Denali on Sept 8 and it was snowing so we would not have seen them.

Budget Queen is correct. You need to be as far North and stay as long as you can.
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#8
4,184 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
I dont agree that you have to be "as far north." I have seen them twice from Denali in Aug/Sep, once a spectacular display from just north of Anchorage in Mar and once a faint display from a cruise ship near Juneau in late Aug.

Time - and luck - are the keys.
#9
more or less in TX
10,419 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
I usually see the Northern Lights when I'm not trying to do so. Many really good ones out in the Chugach Mountailns above Anchorage when driving late at night.

The best ever was iin Denali NP when I woke up and thought it was a wild fire. Nope! Northern Lights. Made coffee & sat outside the rest of the night watching. It was cold but clear and very dry. Very clear seeing. Didn't even think about the bears.

I've never planned an outing just to see the Northern Lights. The good luck just happens.

I've never tried from the Fairbanks area so have no data on success or failure.
#10
Wasilla, Alaska
3,573 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
Originally posted by frugaltravel
I dont agree that you have to be "as far north." I have seen them twice from Denali in Aug/Sep, once a spectacular display from just north of Anchorage in Mar and once a faint display from a cruise ship near Juneau in late Aug.

Time - and luck - are the keys.
But the further north your are, the more you increase your odds. For instance, if you look at tonight's forecast map, http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast I'm on the edge while Fairbanks is smack dab in the middle. The other reason further north is better is that skies are more likely, usually, to be clear.
#11
4,184 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by mytime53
But the further north your are, the more you increase your odds. For instance, if you look at tonight's forecast map, http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast I'm on the edge while Fairbanks is smack dab in the middle. The other reason further north is better is that skies are more likely, usually, to be clear.
Points well taken and true. But the difference between Denali and Fairbanks for example is minimal.

Partly it depends on when one is going and what else there is to do in the area. Much more to do in early September near Denali for days on end vs. Fairbanks. Reverse that in March.
#12
Fairbanks, AK
4,777 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
One of the more spectacular photos published on the Univesetoday website mentioned by mytime53 includes a photo taken by a Fairbanks resident who was about twenty miles north of Fairbanks on Cleary Summit two nights ago. Some of the photos taken from Scotland that same night were also wonderful.

When looking for an aurora it is also important to be as far away from light pollution as possible. On nights when we have active auroral activity predicted the professional and aspiring professional photographers are several miles out of Fairbanks. They all have their favorite sites, and they are generally about as willing to share that location as berry pickers are willing to share the location of their favorite blueberry patch.
#13
Texas
567 Posts
Joined May 2006
I am willing to head north if its in the forcast. planning on booking in late april. Thats as late as I can come.
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#14
Redmond WA
8,054 Posts
Joined Sep 2009
Originally posted by Too blessed to be stressed
I am willing to head north if its in the forcast. planning on booking in late april. Thats as late as I can come.
Consider sometime in March so you can also enjoy the World Ice Art Championship. http://www.icealaska.com/

Check the Fairbanks web site for other winter activities:
http://www.explorefairbanks.com/go/explore/fairbanks/6
#15
Syracuse, New York
49,110 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by Too blessed to be stressed
I am willing to head north if its in the forcast. planning on booking in late april. Thats as late as I can come.
Late April is not ideal. It has a lot of daylight. Hopefully aurora is not the priority. You are also way past the winter activities, no dog sledding, or snow machining, sking that late.
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#16
Syracuse, New York
49,110 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by mapleleaves
Consider sometime in March so you can also enjoy the World Ice Art Championship. http://www.icealaska.com/

Check the Fairbanks web site for other winter activities:
http://www.explorefairbanks.com/go/explore/fairbanks/6
I have gone to this twice. Have you see it??

There was talk this year about it being discontinued, due to some dispute over the ice rights. I would certainly confirm it was still scheduled. I liked going mid month after the single blocks were judged and the multi blocks still "new". Skip the end of the month as they become distorted.

An alternative for summer visitors is the Ice Museum in Fairbanks, at an old Theater.
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#17
Fairbanks, AK
4,777 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
Originally posted by Budget Queen

There was talk this year about it being discontinued, due to some dispute over the ice rights.
Budget Queen is talking about the Ice Alaska Ice Park in Fairbanks, and I am confused about her statement regarding "ice rights."

For a number of years Ice Alaska, which is an incorporated non-profit organization, had leased land from the Alaska Railroad Corporation on which to hold the annual ice park. When the lease was up for renewal the ARC wanted to significantly increase the lease price per square foot to make the lease more in line with current rates. Ice Alaska felt they couldn't pay that rate, and also was interested in purchasing their own land since they wanted to make significant and permanent infrastructure improvements (ie, buildings with utilities). This event requires a significant chunk of real estate due to the size of the carvings, the children's ice playground, the bunkhouses for the carvers and the amount of parking required.

Ice Alaska began a long search for a new piece of land, and the Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor had to intervene to help negotiate a temporary lease between Ice Alaska and ARC. The mayor and his office intervened since not only is this ice park a major community event, but also draws a significant amount of tourists. Folks who do not live here are surprised at the numbers of winter tourists.

In any event, Ice Alaska was able to locate a piece of land and negotiate a purchase price. Several years ago Ice Alaska had received a grant from the Alaska Legislature, and that money was administered by the FNSB. The terms of that grant allowed them to use the bulk of the grant monies to purchase the land. The 2012 Ice Alaska ice park was held on this new location. It was a great success, and as wonderful as in the past. This past summer work continued on the infrastructure improvements, and Ice Alaska seems very pleased with their new permanent location.
#18
Wasilla, Alaska
3,573 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
I'm not really good at doing anything with my camera except point and shoot...my hands were frozen tonight by the time I figured out how to change the exposure time. Here are my amateur photos of the aurora from the end of my driveway tonight...You can see how much they were moving tonight...those photos were shot in succession, and that is the same birch tree in all of them. I had to keep changing my angle with every shot because of their constant motion.
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#19
Syracuse, New York
49,110 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by Northern Aurora
Budget Queen is talking about the Ice Alaska Ice Park in Fairbanks, and I am confused about her statement regarding "ice rights."

For a number of years Ice Alaska, which is an incorporated non-profit organization, had leased land from the Alaska Railroad Corporation on which to hold the annual ice park. When the lease was up for renewal the ARC wanted to significantly increase the lease price per square foot to make the lease more in line with current rates. Ice Alaska felt they couldn't pay that rate, and also was interested in purchasing their own land since they wanted to make significant and permanent infrastructure improvements (ie, buildings with utilities). This event requires a significant chunk of real estate due to the size of the carvings, the children's ice playground, the bunkhouses for the carvers and the amount of parking required.

Ice Alaska began a long search for a new piece of land, and the Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor had to intervene to help negotiate a temporary lease between Ice Alaska and ARC. The mayor and his office intervened since not only is this ice park a major community event, but also draws a significant amount of tourists. Folks who do not live here are surprised at the numbers of winter tourists.

In any event, Ice Alaska was able to locate a piece of land and negotiate a purchase price. Several years ago Ice Alaska had received a grant from the Alaska Legislature, and that money was administered by the FNSB. The terms of that grant allowed them to use the bulk of the grant monies to purchase the land. The 2012 Ice Alaska ice park was held on this new location. It was a great success, and as wonderful as in the past. This past summer work continued on the infrastructure improvements, and Ice Alaska seems very pleased with their new permanent location.
Thank you for the update, I did not look further into the details since I was not going this year. My "ice" mention, is just that, this event has to have the ice access, only reference. They couldn't locate just anywhere- need that "perfect" ice and ease of getting it.

I do have plans to possibility head there next year, my contacts claim good solar activitie is predicted. Problem is, last several years I have added a 3++ week Hawaii trip every Feb, and have commitments for Easter weekend. Plus work in between.
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