The Interior (especially Fairbanks) and Far North regions are considered the best in Alaska for northern lights viewing, although the aurora can be spotted anywhere in Alaska .
Alaska is one of the best places on earth to see the northern lights – colorful bands of light that dance in the dark night sky. Travelers from all over the world come to Alaska each winter to see this stunning display and take advantage of other winter experiences like snowmobiling, dog mushing, skiing, festivals and sporting events.
what are the northern lights, exactly?
The northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, occur about 60 or 70 miles above the earth’s surface —about 10 times higher than a jet aircraft flies — and can extend hundreds of miles into space. The most common color displayed is a brilliant yellow-green, but the aurora borealis can also produce red, blue and purple patterns.
Aurora activity increases with sun spot activity, which generally occurs in 11-year cycles. Aurora activity approached a maximum in the year 2012. This will last about four to five years, which means there will be more auroras visible from locations south of the main aurora occurrence zone than during the solar minimum years.
An aurora , sometimes referred to as a polar light, is a natural light display in the sky, predominantly seen in the high latitude ( Arctic and Antarctic) regions. Auroras are produced when the magnetosphere is sufficiently disturbed by the solar wind that the trajectories of charged particles in both solar wind and
magnetospheric plasma, mainly in the form of electrons and protons, precipitate them into the upper atmosphere ( thermosphere /exosphere ), where their energy is lost. The resulting ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents emits light of varying colour and complexity.
Occurrence of terrestrial auroras...
Most auroras occur in a band known as the auroral zone , which is typically 3° to 6° wide in latitude and between 10° and 20° from the geomagnetic poles at all local times (or longitudes), most clearly seen at night against a dark sky.
A region that currently displays an aurora is called the auroral oval , a band displaced towards the nightside of the Earth. Day-to-day positions of the auroral ovals are posted on the internet.
A geomagnetic storm causes the auroral ovals (north and south) to expand, and bring the aurora to lower latitudes. Early evidence for a geomagnetic connection comes from the statistics of auroral observations. Elias Loomis (1860), and later Hermann Fritz (1881) and S. Tromholt (1882) in more detail, established that the aurora appeared mainly in the "auroral zone", a ring-shaped region with a radius of approximately 2500 km around the Earth's magnetic pole. It was hardly ever seen near the geographic pole, which is about 2000 km away from the magnetic pole.
The instantaneous distribution of auroras ("auroral oval") is slightly different, being centered about 3–5 degrees nightward of the magnetic pole, so that auroral arcs reach furthest toward the equator when the magnetic pole in question is in between the observer and the Sun . The aurora can be seen best at this time, which is called magnetic midnight .
In northern latitudes , the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the
Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora , and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas , by Galileo in 1619.
Its southern counterpart, the aurora australis (or the
southern lights), has features that are almost identical to the aurora borealis and changes simultaneously with changes in the northern auroral zone. It is visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica ,
South America , New Zealand , and Australia .
Auroras also occur on other planets . Similar to the Earth's aurora, they are also visible close to the planets’ magnetic poles.
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