We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about the northern lights—where to see them, when, and how. There are three prerequisites, it has to be dark, the skies have be clear, and you have to be under the auroral oval. The best countries for seeing the northern lights are Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Canada (north of the 60th parallel), Alaska and, to a lesser extent, Sweden and Finland—but there’s a lot of guesswork involved. It’s a question of maximizing your chances.
The aurora borealis can be seen from September through mid-April, when the earth’s magnetic field attracts charged particles thrown off by the sun, the result of solar storms. The particles form a halo around the magnetic pole, the so-called auroral oval. The phenomenon is most visible from November through February, when nights are dark and below-freezing temperatures result in clearer skies. The farther you are from city lights, the better. Wherever you go, plan to stay at least three or four nights and to combine light-chasing with other activities, such as skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, ice-fishing, and visiting reindeer herders. The following intel should help you plan an extraordinary experience of the northern lights.