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Old Dec 6, 2012, 07:25 PM   #1
Doctor Q
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Aurora Borealis or Bust

I'd love to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) someday. But I don't know how to arrange it.

I'm not sure that I'd want to stay for months in northern latitudes in the winter, just staring at the sky. Is there another choice? Can the lights ever be predicted? If I have to go north, stay somewhere for many days and take my chances on a viewing, where might I go that would also have other worthwhile things to do?

What kind of plans do I really need to make to give me a good chance to see the Aurora Borealis?

Who among you has seen the Northern (or Southern) Lights? Was it luck or did you somehow arrange it?
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 07:29 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Doctor Q View Post
I'd love to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) someday. But I don't know how to arrange it.

I'm not sure that I'd want to stay for months in northern latitudes in the winter, just staring at the sky. Is there another choice? Can the lights ever be predicted? If I have to go north, stay somewhere for many days and take my chances on a viewing, where might I go that would also have other worthwhile things to do?

What kind of plans do I really need to make to give me a good chance to see the Aurora Borealis?

Who among you has seen the Northern (or Southern) Lights? Was it luck or did you somehow arrange it?
It's on the front page of Bing right now
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 07:53 PM   #3
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It's on the front page of Bing right now
I hadn't considered going into space to see the Northern Lights. That's a bit over my vacation budget.
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 07:54 PM   #4
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Have to say, I would love to see that as well.
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 07:58 PM   #5
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I've seen them much further south than Alaska, but it is extremely rare.

From what I understand, they are fairly unpredictable, so you may have to wait a while.
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 08:27 PM   #6
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Take a vacation to Alaska or Scandinavia or Iceland; it would be fun in and of itself and increase your likelihood of seeing the lights. Aren't there certain times of the year they are more likely to occur?
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 08:33 PM   #7
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By chance, i saw them from the air, whilst flying from Canada to the UK a few months ago whilst on holiday (I believe we were flying over Greenland at the time).

Unfortunately, was unable to get any decent photos from inside the aircraft.

But, one more thing ticked off on the to do list...
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 08:37 PM   #8
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I would take a 5-10 day vacation to somewhere very far north in the winter. Go out every night and look at the sky! There aren't any accurate predictions of them, and even if there were the weather still has to be perfect. Here in ND we see them about 5-6 times a year but you have to be away from the city lights to get a really good view. They usually show up around 10pm, get brighter, then die off in a couple of hours.
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 09:18 PM   #9
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I've seen them in Wisconsin a couple times. It wasn't the amazing ones you see pictures of but it was still spectacular.
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 10:17 PM   #10
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They should be more common next year when the Sun's solar flairs really peak.

I actually saw them briefly in CT one summer about 6 years ago. Freaked me out at first before I realized what it was.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 12:03 AM   #11
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I go to school in Canada, so I see them occasionally. It seems to be fairly random as to when they occur, I'm a bit too far south to see them regularly, but fall and early winter seem to be the best times to see them. If you search on Google for Aurora forecast or something along those lines you can find sites that will tell you where the activity is expected to be able to be seen, but that only goes out a couple days so not really enough to plan a trip with. Anyway here's a picture of them that I got a week or two ago.
Thumb resize.
Also I've noticed that if you have any lights from buildings around they can drown out the Aurora at times, so try to get somewhere where you can get away from lights easily, the ones that I have a picture of couldn't be seen well if you were actually on campus where the lights were, you had to get away a bit to see them well.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 06:50 AM   #12
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I've seen them in Toronto as a kid, but that was years ago, and long before the current light pollution problem.

I've also seen them near Algonquin Park, and further North, like Peace River, Alberta.

But it's been quite a while.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:44 PM   #13
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If there's a huge solar storm, does that increase the Aurora Borealis activity soon after?
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:03 PM   #14
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If there's a huge solar storm, does that increase the Aurora Borealis activity soon after?
Yes for sure.

I've seen 3 incredible displays in my life from my backyard in Michigan throughout my childhood, but its not something you can plan on like an eclipse.

Like someone else said you probably have a better chance of seeing them up in Alaska.

There is a website for forecasting the Aurora:

http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:05 PM   #15
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I've seen them in Wisconsin a couple times. It wasn't the amazing ones you see pictures of but it was still spectacular.
I saw them in Wisconsin 7 or 8 years ago while driving at night...I was driving through the woods, then came through an open area near a lake and BAM! - green glowing strings in the sky. That was a bit startling, but super-cool once I figured out it was the Northern lights.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:06 PM   #16
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When I was younger, I saw them in the upper peninsula of Michigan with a girl who was soon to be my girlfriend. It is truly an awe-inspiring sight... and it got me laid.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:40 PM   #17
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I saw them in Wisconsin 7 or 8 years ago while driving at night...I was driving through the woods, then came through an open area near a lake and BAM! - green glowing strings in the sky. That was a bit startling, but super-cool once I figured out it was the Northern lights.
Mine was kind of same way. We were having a party at our house and I was sitting out on the deck getting some air with a friend and we looked up and wondered what was going on. It took us a couple minutes to realize what we were seeing. It was awesome though!
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:45 PM   #18
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I won a trip to Fairbanks (Alaska) and I still didn't see them. You have to be as North as possible, and away from any lights. Also have to stay up late!
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 06:31 PM   #19
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If there's a huge solar storm, does that increase the Aurora Borealis activity soon after?
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Originally Posted by obeygiant View Post
Yes for sure.
In my day (what??) Solar flairs were just interesting for their after-effects.

Now days everyone runs around like Chicken Little, for fear of their satellites/power lines/etc.

Ah, for a kinder, gentler, simpler time.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 06:44 PM   #20
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Yes for sure.

I've seen 3 incredible displays in my life from my backyard in Michigan throughout my childhood, but its not something you can plan on like an eclipse.

Like someone else said you probably have a better chance of seeing them up in Alaska.

There is a website for forecasting the Aurora:

http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast
obeygiant, you are my hero! I'm so glad to find a site like this.

U of Alaska Fairbanks' advice:
Plan ahead. To plan a trip to the auroral zone, use the "Auroral Activity by Solar Rotation". The maximum activity expected on each day is plotted there for 28 days in advance. Check the Travelerís Guide to the Aurora for when and where to travel.

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In my day (what??) Solar flairs were just interesting for their after-effects.

Now days everyone runs around like Chicken Little, for fear of their satellites/power lines/etc.
In past years people could reported continue to live without all of their electronic gadgets and communication systems. These days we'd obviously all die if our tech blinked off.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 06:46 PM   #21
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Ah, for a kinder, gentler, simpler time.
To see the Aurora Australis , our southern equivalent, it's best to see them from Southland. Funnily enough in the South Island. Far more chance of seeing the phenomenon after a period of intense solar activity. An amazing sight to behold. You can also go skiing while you wait if it's in our winter season. We also have a kinder, gentler and more simple country.

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