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Aurora Season

August 21-April 21

Fairbanks' renowned aurora viewing lures people from all over the world during “Aurora Season” from August 21 to April 21. Fairbanks, Alaska's location is ideal for northern lights viewing because it is under the “Auroral Oval”—a ring-shaped zone over the far north where aurora activity is concentrated. Additionally, low precipitation in Fairbanks contributes to consistently clear nights. All combined these variables make the Fairbanks region an outstanding destination for possible aurora borealis viewing.

There are many different ways you can hunt for the aurora. You can drive to a nearby vantage point and wait for them to appear, you can view them from a heated “aurorium” cabin or lodge, see them on a dog Aurora Certificatesled adventure, on a snow cat tour, via a trip part way up the Dalton Highway or even on a flight above the Arctic Circle. Ask your accommodation’s front desk if they offer a wake-up call when the northern lights are out. No guarantees, but the longer you’re here, the better your chances of seeing a great light show. Once you've spotted the aurora borealis, stop by the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center for your personalized Aurora Certificate.

I saw the northern lights for the first time in Fairbanks and literally teared up—huge green and violet curtains pulsating and swirling across the sky. I couldn't believe how vibrant and fast they were.

-Kate Siber,
travel writer

When aurora hunting, keep in mind:

  • Intensity varies daily, with the best displays from late evening to early morning hours.
  • The aurora borealis will be visible an average of four out of five nights when the sky is clear and dark enough.
  • If you stay a minimum of three nights and are actively out during the evening hours, your chance of seeing the aurora is more than 90%.

Aurora borealis features include:

  • A vibrant green is the most common aurora color but the spectrum includes red, magenta, yellow and white.
  • The aurora takes on different shapes such as curtains, bands, rays and coronas.
  • Auroral activity level as they move across the sky ranges from slow and languid to sudden and swift.

Myth busting:

  • A full moon does not obscure the light of the aurora borealis—in fact, the full moon often enhances the contrast between the scenery, the snow and the aurora.
  • The twelve-year aurora cycle does not significantly impact northern lights viewing in Fairbanks because of its position under the “Auroral Oval.”

Copy of Aurora PhotographyHow to Photograph the Aurora

  • Locate a dark area with minimal light pollution. Point your camera to the northern sky and compose your medium-distance foreground with a fixed object such as trees, hills or a cabin.
  • Use a digital camera with manual settings and a solid tripod. Bring extra camera batteries and a flashlight and dress for extended times outdoors.
  • Manually set your camera on its highest ISO setting, widest focal point and lowest aperture.
  • Expose each shot for approximately 5 to 10 seconds. Longer exposures will result in brighter images, but stars will streak and the aurora will soften. Short exposures may have sharper detail but dimmer images.
  • Every aurora and camera is distinctive, so experiment with different settings and exposure times to get the best shot. Review your shots and adjust the settings as needed.

Aurora