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Where would you go to see Northern Lights?

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Where would you go to see Northern Lights?

Old 12-16-08, 07:46 AM
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rhm
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Where would you go to see Northern Lights?

I have never really seen the aurora borealis, AKA northern lights. A couple times when I was a kid and my family went camping up in the Adirondacks or the Algonquin I saw faint fingers of light dancing around the northern horizon, but you really had to take it on faith that that was indeed the aurora borealis. So... I'd like to do it right sometime.

As I understand it, the aurora is tied to sunspot activity which is, to some degree, cyclical; and over the course of the next few years we can expect to enter a period of higher sunspot activity, during which there will be a higher likelihood of a good light show. I don't think it'll be starting in the next year, though, so I still have some time to plan.

A further wrinkle: the aurora borealis occurs most frequently in spring and fall, more or less around the time of the equinox; so the summer, when it's most pleasant for touring way up north, is not the best time for seeing the aurora.

So... with that goal in mind...
a. Where would you go? Newfoundland? Alaska? Iceland? Scandinavia? Siberia?
b. When would you go there?
c. How would you get there?
d. How would you travel up there-- this depends on when and where, of course; MTB or regular touring bike? Would you camp? &c. &c. &c.

I'd love to hear anyone's experience with touring way up north, especially if it involved seeing the northern lights. Thanks!
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Old 12-16-08, 08:17 AM
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When I first moved to Whitehorse, Yukon I saw the most amazing display of my life. Even though I lived there for 10 years this moment was never equaled. My friend (where I stayed when I first went up) was building a log cabin, and I was sleeping in a tent in the cabin (which had no roof yet). It was early fall (Oct. I think) since there only a little snow around.

I woke up one night to the most amazing sight, my eyes have ever seen. The lights were flying around seemingly in all directions, and all colours. I crawled up onto on of the log beams that was going to become the roof, and just lied there in my sleeping bag for an hour or so enjoying the show.

If my knowledge of what the Aurora are did not exist, I would have sworn they were going to cut right through me as I lay there. What a night.

So Whitehorse, or Dawson City, Yukon is where I'd go to see the lights.

Sadly I don't know that bike touring in the Yukon in winter is a very possible idea.

Last edited by gerald_g; 12-16-08 at 08:20 AM. Reason: spelling and grammer
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Old 12-16-08, 08:18 AM
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The Upper Peninsula of Mich for me... Specifically , the Keweenaw Peninsula.
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Old 12-16-08, 08:44 AM
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I have seen the Northern Lights three times. I don't know much about cyclical sunspot activity, but I think the first time was in 1975 or 1976, and the last time was 1982 or 1983. So you can work it out. I was in southern Ontario -- Toronto and Kingston -- for all three shows, so it may have been a fluke that I saw them. The chances improve at higher latitudes, so go north, young man or woman! The upper Peninsula of Michigan? That's a couple of hundred miles further north than where I was, and easy to get to...

By the way, the last display of the aurora borealis that I saw was spectacular, and filled with the night sky, from north to south, the entire night. A friend and I walked the streets of Kingston, Ontario from about 11:15 PM until 4 AM, savoring the show.

I don't think that one can 100% predict when the aurora borealis will be visible. For example, there will be nothing to see on a cloudy or foggy or rainy night. But I hope you get your wish.
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Old 12-16-08, 09:55 AM
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You can check on current auroral activity at [URL="http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/pmap/Intro.html[/URL].
The other NOAA sites linked with this one have forecasts for geomagnetic activity.

Weak aurorae are relatively common in the northern mainland US, but you need a dark sky to see them.
Nothing prepared me for the real thing, which I saw during a 3 week stay in Fairbanks in February.
The great unfurlings of vivid green, yellow, and red are really a lifetime sight. I remember getting out
of my rental car at the motel one night (cursing at the motorized seatbelt which had stuck in the -40
temperature, imprisoning me for a moment) and happened to look up....suddenly the sky was filled with
great daggers of vivid green, coming straight DOWN at me! I actually ducked!

Last edited by rnorris; 12-16-08 at 10:02 AM.
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Old 12-16-08, 12:04 PM
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I've seen them a few times, farthest south was Syracuse NY. Wouldn't bank on that as a reliable location to find them.
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Old 12-16-08, 12:07 PM
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If you can afford the flight northen Sweden and Norway are meant to be good places to go for the N.L.
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Old 12-16-08, 12:56 PM
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I see them right where I am. Come to Alberta!! I cannot count the number of times I've seen the northern lights.

Central Alberta doesn't have the best displays, but they are fairly regular in the fall and spring. Northern Alberta (in the Grande Prairie area) has much brighter and more colorful displays ... I lived there for 11 years and enjoyed them on a regular basis. Oh, on a quiet night in northern Alberta, you could also hear them "roar".

If you go to my website (signature line) and to Tours - Canada 2006: http://www.machka.net/short_tours/2006_PineLake.htm , I write about a tour to Pine Lake near here in September. The northern lights were out, as bright as that picture, and the coyotes were howling ... it was magical!!
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Old 12-16-08, 04:27 PM
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Without a doubt: Yellowknife NWT. I lived there during my childhood and still have strong memories of the northern lights.
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Old 12-16-08, 07:15 PM
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When I lived in Saskatchewan, the displays were incredible. I was in Prince Albert and there were plenty of parks near the city where one could see the lights without the city lights in the way. Even if the Northern Lights didn't show, the rest of the night sky was worth watching.

Spring and fall are the best times to see the lights. In summer, parts of the prairies don't get completely dark at night, even though they are far from the Arctic Circle.
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Old 12-16-08, 11:12 PM
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Fort St John, BC

I saw them years ago on my first motorcycle trip to the great white north. Fort St John is in northern British Columbia, at the southerly end of the Alaska Highway, and it was early Fall (and getting chilly at night). I was out late partying with some friends and it was stunning to see the vivid displays.
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Old 12-17-08, 03:35 AM
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You could make a real trip of it and go see the other aurora (australis). Bottom of the south island, New Zealand.
Looks like three or four years before things hot up again.

Some nice pictures here:
http://homepage.mac.com/stevoss/astr...ge3/page3.html
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Old 12-17-08, 04:41 AM
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I would go out of my front door in winter to see them.

I've managed to spot them a couple of times right from my front yard, but chances are better in the North, preferrably North from the Arctic Circle. There's less light overall as sun doesn't rise above horizon for weeks or months even, depending on how far North you go. Also, it's sparsely populated, so less artificial lighting. Less light means it's easier to spot them. Being closer to the magnetic North doesn't hurt either, but that's really less important.

There are several hotels in northern Scandinavia that list Northern Lights as one of their winter activities. Obviously none of them can guarantee the show. But they do their best: for example, hotel Kakslauttanen in Finland has a glass igloo to make it easier for you to spot the Lights right out of your bed. http://www.kakslauttanen.fi/

Aurora borealis occurs in summertime too (why wouldn't it) but there's far too much light (24 hours per day in the North) to observe it.

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Old 12-17-08, 10:46 AM
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You just have to go north. I used to work in James Bay (~55° lat) and on almost every clear night, one could see a thin veil on the the northen horizon. There's an aurora "crown" where they are are brightest. It more-or-less follows the tree line in Canada and is at lower latitude in the east than west. They also get dimmer if you got too far north but that souldn't be a problem on a bike.

I've seen them twice in Montreal and reported them here. They were bright and spread across the country. I've seen them once while touring (photo below) and were the only thing missing during last summer's tour (I was in Labrador near the equinoxe).



After that night, I had a chat with the campground owner on how RV goers missed the whole show. He said he wakes people up sometimes.
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Old 12-17-08, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Erick L View Post
You just have to go north. I used to work in James Bay (~55° lat) and on almost every clear night, one could see a thin veil on the the northen horizon. There's an aurora "crown" where they are are brightest. It more-or-less follows the tree line in Canada and is at lower latitude in the east than west. They also get dimmer if you got too far north but that souldn't be a problem on a bike.

I've seen them twice in Montreal and reported them here. They were bright and spread across the country. I've seen them once while touring (photo below) and were the only thing missing during last summer's tour (I was in Labrador near the equinoxe).



After that night, I had a chat with the campground owner on how RV goers missed the whole show. He said he wakes people up sometimes.
Interesting photo- did you use a tracking mount? Nice sharp stars and the ribbons both; like to know the details of how you shot that!
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Old 12-17-08, 06:35 PM
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Just a plain tripod.
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Old 12-18-08, 02:17 AM
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They are bright enough and big enough to be caught in a short exposure(30-45s) so the stars don't track.
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Old 12-18-08, 10:31 AM
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Hey,thanks,everyone,this is all really helpful! The link posted above brought me to this map:.
From this I gather the magnetic north pole lies in Canada, somewhere directly north from, say, Lake Michigan. So in the lower 48 US states, then the upper peninsula of Michigan, or Minnesota, would indeed be the best place to be... assuming there's anything to see that night. I know, I'm oversimplifying....

Okay, so... what I need to do is pick a place where I can go for a nice bike tour, at a time of year when it's nice to be touring there, where I would have the best odds of seeing the Northern Lights. It would be nice if this could be a time of year when my kids are not in school, and it would be nice if I could get to the starting point and from the ending point pretty easily, i.e. by bus or train or, perhaps, car or airplane. Anyone want to suggest something ?

For example: How 'bout a ride all the way around Lake Superior? If so... when? What kind of weather conditions would you expect if you were going to ride around Lake Superior in March/April, or September/October?

Last edited by rhm; 12-18-08 at 10:45 AM.
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Old 12-18-08, 03:43 PM
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Here is a short-range forecast site:
http://www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/

you can look at different parts of the globe, and there is other useful information.

Note that winter is a better time, because the night sky is darker longer.
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Old 12-20-08, 10:17 AM
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I saw an incredible northern lights display in Bayfieid Wisconsin. Bayfield, a beautiful little town, sits on the shores of Lake Superior out on a penninsula and is the launching site for boaters to explore the Apostle Islands. Anywho, the biking up there would be wonderful in the fall. Fantastic autumn color in late September, early October. And the weather most likely would be nice, though at times unpredictable. The northern lights I saw were in late September, curtains of colored light waving across the night sky, spectacular. Wisconsin for the most part has really smooth roads and, when you get as far north as Bayfield, little traffic.
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Old 12-21-08, 03:13 PM
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When the cycle is on "high" we get them a lot. Not only that, but we are a tiny town in northern Ontario (Cochrane, Ontario, CANADA) with no large city nearby so there is virtually no light pollution just away from the houses. There have been times when you'd almost think you could read by them, they were so bright. We're easy to get to and not as far as Scandinavia!!
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Old 02-09-19, 01:32 AM
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Alaska, Scotland are the best places to see northern lights. If you want more and detailed information about Northern lights trip then please visit Gondwana Ecotours. Gondwana Ecotours offers best northern lights packages.
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Old 02-09-19, 02:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Robertsmith View Post
Alaska, Scotland are the best places to see northern lights. If you want more and detailed information about Northern lights trip then please visit Gondwana Ecotours. Gondwana Ecotours offers best northern lights packages.
You'd have to be very lucky to see them in Scotland. I've seen them in Iceland, but as others have said, just go north. Weather is the determining factor a lot of the time.
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Old 02-09-19, 03:30 AM
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Although I've seen the southern lights in Northern Victoria, Australia, about 400 km frlom the coast of the state. Amazing sight, and a long way further north than I would have expected to see them. Only the once, mind, in 10 years. No street lights for miles, plus skies way less polluted than those in the Northern Hemisphere certainly helped.
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Old 02-09-19, 05:36 AM
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Old thread ... 11 years! But ...

Originally Posted by rhm View Post
I have never really seen the aurora borealis, AKA northern lights. A couple times when I was a kid and my family went camping up in the Adirondacks or the Algonquin I saw faint fingers of light dancing around the northern horizon, but you really had to take it on faith that that was indeed the aurora borealis. So... I'd like to do it right sometime.


I'd love to hear anyone's experience with touring way up north, especially if it involved seeing the northern lights. Thanks!
I've seen the northern lights many times.

You can see them around Winnipeg, but they're usually just green there.

You can see them around Red Deer, in fact we had a fantastic autumn overnight tour that was highlighted by northern lights and the howls of coyotes.

And you can see them up around Grande Prairie where I lived for many years.

In both Red Deer and Grande Prairie, they appeared in red, green, and white.

But apparently there are even more colours further north.


Personally, I want to see the "southern lights".
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