Optimizing Your Probability of Seeing Northern Lights

Here is an educational Aurora Borealis post. If folks ask the question, will the Northern Lights be active on a certain date in the future, here is information which will help you with trip planning.

While some folks may have different opinions, if I were planning a trip to the Lake Superior Region, Alaska, Norway, Iceland, etc. with the hopes of also viewing the Northern Lights as part of that trip, I would take into account the following information before choosing trip dates:

  1. September would be my first choice of months due to increasingly longer nights, and stable weather.
  2. October and March would be my second choices for months as nights are long, but weather tends to be a bit more suspect … cloudy nights.
  3. Any other month between November and February, inclusive.
  4. I would avoid the Summer months due to short nights in terms of darkness, and no darkness if you travel far enough north. However, Northern Lights do dance in the Summer. I have personally watched great Aurora displays in northern Minnesota in early August (see example). True darkness at night occurs approximately between two hours after sunset and two hours before sunrise.
  5. I would browse to SpaceWeather.Com and check their 28 day cycle long range forecast (scroll down on page linked immediately below). I have included an annotated screenshot to show you what I mean.
  6. Remember, the sun’s cycle is about 29 days, while the moon is about 28 days. Long range Aurora forecasts are based upon the recent Solunar Cycles. If sunspots were occurring about 28 days ago, there is a decent chance there may be sunspot activity today. Sunspots with CME’s directed towards earth cause Auroras. (CME = Coronal Mass Ejection)
  7. If you have to plan more than 28 days in the future … choose dark nights (duration of dark sky each night plus moon phase) and stable months in terms of weather.

Always Look in the Rear View Mirror!

Last night the Northern Lights numbers skyrocketed, but viewing was difficult due to the almost full moon, and ground fog forming from the 37F temperature. My first stop was Little Stone Lake near Brimson, Minnesota where the Aurora fought with the ambient light from the lingering sunset and almost full moon.

My next stop was a very remote wilderness lake deep in the Superior National Forest. I struck out on viewing opportunities at the lake due to ground fog caused by 37F temperatures. However while driving home I took a longer glance in my car’s rear view mirror. I noticed the lights were starting to pop. Thus, I found an unknown river and watched a short dance. The river was “in the clear”.

Sounds of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Sometimes it pays to stay home! I had not been birding since last Friday, and having a few moments before dinner this Tuesday evening I had planned on heading out to find some shorebirds. However, my backyard birds had other ideas. As I walked down the steps outside my home, I noticed one hummingbird aggressively defending the bee balm from all comers. This action is not unusual, but that Ruby Throat decided to perch on the flowers themselves.

For the next hour, between a few trips indoors to check some photos I watched this small bird defend my garden. I could even count upon with some degree of certainty that my small friend would land on the same exact flower after either feeding or fending off competitors for this piece of garden. I hope you enjoy the video in which there are two primary sounds … the beating of the hummingbird’s wings, and it song (20 second mark). 

video