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Aurora viewing tips




Where to see the aurora
The aurora lies in an oval-shaped band (called the 'auroral oval') around both the geomagnetic North and South Poles. In order to see the aurora, the sky needs to be clear and dark, and you need to be near the oval.

  • Clear skies
    The aurora is not a weather phenomenon, it occurs high above the clouds. Cloud cover will hide the aurora.
  • Dark skies
    Spring and fall nights are the best time to see the aurora. Although the aurora is always present, even in summer, it is not visible unless the skies are dark. Sunlight and even bright moonlight can make the aurora difficult to see.
  • Under the oval
    The location of the auroral oval remains fixed in relation to the Sun. Earth rotates beneath it once a day. The auroral oval is wider and more elongated toward the nighttime side of the planet.

polar rotate thumbnail
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  • In the Northern Hemisphere the auroral oval occupies, on average, a belt bounded by the 60-70° latitude circles. However, during stronger auroral displays, the oval expands and can be seen further south.

North American aurora thumbnail
Click below to see a map of the probability
of spotting an aurora where you live:
North America


When to see the aurora
Auroral activity occurs as a result of solar activity.

  • The presence of sunspots is a common predictor. The prevalence of sunspots tends to occur in an 11 year cycle. Auroral activity associated with sunspots is more frequent and intense during the peak years of the cycle. The last peak occurred in 2001.
  • Active aurora years often follow the peak because of the tendency of coronal holes to form. Expect good auroral displays between 2004 and 2007.


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Geophysical Institute
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site last modified: August 2003 maintained by Asahi Aurora Web Manager