What Is It?
Ribbons of light streak across the sky as the Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights can be seen in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
Where to Go?
Alaska in the winter is one of the best places in the United States to see the Northern Lights. Inland Alaska offers clearer and darker skies, providing a dark backdrop for the lights to dance upon. Consider visiting Fairbanks, just below the Arctic Circle in central Alaska, or heading to Kotzebue or Utqiagvik near the northern tip of Alaska.
How It Works
Auroras—the strips of light—occur after the sun emits large clouds of gas. These gases collide with Earth’s magnetic field. The particles travel along the magnetic field toward the poles, where they react with nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere to create visible colors. Since auroras are caused by gases from the sun, they are more common in periods with more solar flares.
Take a Train
Seeing the lights may be the destination, but the journey can be fun as well. If viewing the lights in Fairbanks, take the Aurora Winter Train. The 12-hour ride goes from Anchorage to Fairbanks through the Alaskan backcountry. On a clear day, you can even see Denali from the train.
Aurora viewing season in Alaska lasts from August to April. Be sure to pack layers, as the best places to view the Northern Lights are near the Arctic Circle, in the winter, at night. It will likely be cold. Fairbanks regularly records subzero temperatures.