Why Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights? At 65 degrees north latitude, Fairbanks is within the “aurora oval,” the area where Northern Lights occur most often and are the brightest. The aurora belt in Alaska’s great Interior and Arctic regions is among the most active in the world, so there few other places on earth providing greater chances of seeing the northern lights. The continental climate in Fairbanks offers many more clear nights than coast area. These made Fairbanks become an ideal starting point to observe the aurora in Alaska. The Fairbanks Visitors Bureau says you have an 80 percent chance of seeing them if you stay there for 3 nights.
When to go?
The northern lights occur year-round, however, summer’s constant daylight makes seeing them next to impossible. While there is no guarantee, the aurora is typically can be seen at their most frequent in late August through all winter until early spring towards the end of April , when less daylight leads to darker night skies.
How to see aurora in Fairbanks?
The aurora is unpredictable, and no one’s entirely sure when—or where—it’s going to appear. The aurora is most active late at night or early in the morning, clear skies and darkness are essential to see the northern lights. The brightest aurora display is seen during the new moon. The most common color displayed is a brilliant yellow-green, but the Aurora Borealis can also produce red, blue and purple patterns.
Good Spots in Fairbanks
The Steese Highway north of Fairbanks to the town of Fox offers several good views of dark skies to the north. Mount Aurora Skiland (Cleary Summit) is only about 20 miles out of town and has a parking lot suitable for viewing the aurora.
The second best alternative is along the Elliot Highway. The third route, which runs just 60 miles into the hills, is Chena Hot Springs Road. Parks Highway towards to Ester is another option too.
Recommended sites by “Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks” are:
- • Chena Lakes Recreation Area
• Ester, Wickersham, and Murphy Domes
• Haystack Mountain
• Some turnouts along the Eliot, Steese, and Parks Highways
• Cleary Summit
Right Time of Day
Start looking about an hour and a half after sunset, but peak auroral activity is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. solar time. (Solar time is 2.5 hours after clock time during daylight saving time (and 1.5 hours after during standard daylight time. That means the best time for seeing the aurora during Alaska’s winter is 11:30 p.m.–3:30 a.m. with the peak at 1:30 a.m. During Alaska’s spring and fall (September and March), the best time to view the aurora is 12:30 a.m. – 4:30 a.m.
Right Weather Conditions
If it’s clear and dark enough to see stars, there’s a chance you’ll be able to see the aurora. If there’s even partly cloudy skies? You have a chance, but it needs to be a strong aurora for you to see it. Check out these prediction tools:
What to Wear?
For a cold Alaska evening you need:
• Top and bottom base layer
• Warm mid-layers
• A wind-proof coat and wind-proof pants.
• A down-filled or insulated parka.
• Warm socks.
• Good Boots.
• Hat, mittens, glove liners and a scarf or neck gaiter.
• Hand and foot warmers
Or choose to pay about $30-$35/person to Chandalar Ranch or Mount Aurora Ski Land to stay warm while viewing Aurora during the cold Alaska winter days.
The city produce ambient light that interferes with aurora viewing, and while auroras are still visible from city of Fairbanks, it is best to view from the outskirts of town, or in an area known for clear, dark skies.