About a year ago a friend of mine asked if I wanted to watch the northern lights with her. Of course I said yes because I have never seen them before and I’m always up for an adventure. It took a couple of chilly nights and late night adventures before we finally had the chance to watch them dance in the sky. I learned very quickly that Northern lights are super unpredictable so, patience is key.
I’m going to share with you some tips that I give others who want to see them for themselves, not just on a computer or TV screen. I’m telling you, it’s worth making the trek out into the wilderness late at night to see the amazing show that nature puts on.
I’m no expert but here is a list of what I have learned and how I have been able to see them several times:
Follow different Facebook groups that chase the Aurora (term used for the northern lights) you will find tons of information and usually plenty of updates to give you a head start on when to watch for them.
Check out Soft Serve News. This is hands down my favorite resource for tracking them, they even notify you when you should step outside. I go as far as having them call and wake me up but I’m super crazy about them! When you see terms like “KP level” know that Minnesota needs at least a level of 5 to be able to see them.
“BOC” is a term you will see photographers write, it means back of camera. Sometimes you can’t see the lights but if you take a long exposure photo they will be visible on camera. If you’re not going to take photos but you see they are visible “BOC”, it’s probably not worth getting out of your jammies.
The app Aurora Forecast is awesome for checking the different solar levels (you do not have to know how they are monitored just know how to read the graphs, its easy, promise) and predicting the lights.
Find a spot out of town to watch them. Light pollution from the city will make it hard to see them. You will have a much better chance if you head out of town. My favorite spot is the Boulder Lake Dam but I’ve heard that there are amazing spots up the North Shore by Gooseberry and along Lake Superior on the Wisconsin side. There are light pollution websites that help you choose where to go.
Clouds or a full moon are NOT your friend. Clouds obviously make it crazy hard/impossible to see the stars right? It’s the same with the Northern Lights. I have watched the lights through openings in the clouds but it’s much easier if its not cloudy. The full moon will light up the sky, making them hard to see. You want it really dark outside.. BUT I have seen them during a full moon, it’s just not as bright. So if the levels are high, its a clear sky and there’s a full moon, you will still see them they just won’t be super bright.
Bundle up and bring a warm drink! I’m usually going late at night when its chilly and sitting there for a while waiting. It’s nice to keep warm and have a hot drink.
Don’t give up! Like I said, I went twice before I saw them and was waiting several hours. You have to be patient. Once you see them, you will be hooked, it’s incredible!
Have fun out there and let me know if you have any questions,