Pictures of the Northern Lights have long captivated our attention. Witnessing vibrant colors of blue, green, and pink dance across the night sky is truly a remarkable experience — and it’s one Anchorage truly loves time and again. It’s hard not to stare up into the stars and ponder the myriad things that pop up in our minds during those momentous evenings. In Anchorage, we can sometimes view the Northern Lights as early as 8 p.m. during the winter months. They are often incredibly bright, multi-hued, and fast moving. It’s an experience that many revel in.
With our guide, you’ll be able to answer common questions about the Northern Lights, see where the best viewing places are, and get to know why Anchorage is a great place to live in.
Common Questions about the Northern Lights
- What are the best years and months for viewing the Northern Lights?
- What is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
- What are the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)?
- How long do the Northern Lights last?
- How do I photograph the Northern Lights?
Where to View the Northern Lights around Anchorage
There are several great places to get a clear view of the Northern Lights around Anchorage, but you should always keep in mind that the weather and man-made light greatly influence your ability to see the auroras. That’s why our suggested viewing locations are often right outside the Anchorage city area, as the clear, dark skies create a better viewing stage. Here are a few great spots to watch the Northern Lights:
- Eagle River Nature Center
Located in the Eagle River Valley, the center has been named one of the favorite viewing spots. It is open throughout the center and features astronomer-led events.
- Alyeska Resort
Situated 39 miles south of Anchorage, this European-style community can be the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing night in companion with the Northern Lights.
- Matanuska Lodge & Sheep Mountain Lodge
Approximately 100 miles north of Anchorage, this dark area is known for clear skies and comfortable amenities. Gaze at the Northern Lights and on the next day go enjoy the Matanuska Glacier.
Answers to Common Questions about the Northern Lights
Currently, we are in the “peak phase” of the solar cycle, which means up until 2015 there is a high potential for aurora activity. Months that experience more aurora phenomenon include the spring time (March/April) and autumn (September/October). Typically, you will be able to see the Northern Lights during the autumn and winter if you spend enough time looking. During the summer however, it’s harder to view the Northern Lights in May, June, and July.
It’s hard to pinpoint the best time to view the Northern Lights as activity may occur at irregular times, but generally you can see the Northern Lights best between midnight and 2 a.m.
The Northern Lights come from ionized particles emitted from the sun. The solar wind gets caught in earth’s magnetic field and collides with our atmosphere to create displays of light.
It all depends on the magnitude of the solar wind, so you may experience light shows that last 10 minutes up to all night long.
Common methods to photographing the Northern Lights includes placing your camera on a tripod and changing the ISO (light sensitivity) to 800 or 1600. Set the f-stop wide open and start bracketing exposure times (either 5, 10, or 20 seconds). If the picture is still black and underexposed, try 30 seconds and raise the ISO even higher. For a detailed list of how to photograph the Northern Lights, read this article.