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  • Writer's pictureLuke

How to Chase the Aurora Tonight!

Did you miss the aurora this past weekend? No worries! Here's your guide to catching the Northern Lights tonight and planning your aurora adventures for the rest of the year. With us currently at solar maximum, the aurora borealis will be brighter and more active, offering a spectacular display that won't be this consistently bright again for another 11 years!

Aurora Borealis in Aztec New Mexico

how to read

Step 1: Check Aurora Activity First things first, you need to know when the aurora is active. I highly recommend using Space Weather Live for up-to-date aurora activity information. This website provides real-time updates on solar wind conditions and auroral forecasts.

what kp values mean

Step 2: Understand the KP Index The KP index is a scale from 0 to 9 that measures geomagnetic activity. Higher values indicate a higher likelihood of seeing the aurora. Check the KP value listed on Space Weather Live and use this map to see where the aurora will be visible based on the KP index. For example, a KP value of 5 or higher means there's a good chance of seeing the aurora further south than usual.

find a place clear of clouds

Step 3: Check the Weather Clear skies are essential for aurora viewing. Use the National Weather Service's Graphical Forecast to find areas with no clouds. Simply select the "Sky Cover" element and look for areas with minimal cloud cover.

how to find a place without light pollution

Step 4: Plan Your Viewing Location To maximize your chances of seeing the aurora, head to a location with minimal light pollution. Dark skies away from city lights are ideal. Websites like can help you find dark sky locations near you.

Step 5: Timing and Patience Auroras are most commonly visible during the hours around midnight, but they can appear anytime it's dark. Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the experience. Dress warmly, bring some hot cocoa, and maybe even a reclining chair for comfort.

Bonus Tips: Photography and Apps

  • Photography: If you want to capture the aurora, use a camera with manual settings. Set a high ISO (800-3200), a wide aperture (f/2.8 or lower), and a long exposure time (15-30 seconds). Use a tripod to keep your camera steady.

  • Apps: There are several apps available that can help you track aurora activity, such as My Aurora Forecast, Aurora Alerts, and SpaceWeatherLive.

Solar Maximum: Why Now is the Best Time We are currently at the peak of the solar cycle, known as solar maximum. This period occurs roughly every 11 years and results in increased solar activity, making the auroras more frequent and vibrant. This is the best time to witness the Northern Lights, so don't miss out on this celestial extravaganza!

Remember, the aurora borealis is a natural phenomenon, and while these steps can increase your chances of seeing it, nature can be unpredictable. Enjoy the adventure, and happy aurora chasing!

Clear skies,

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