Vibrant blues, pinks, greens and yellows sway in the sky, marking the path of the dancing aurora borealis. The shimmering opus can be seen swirling in Anchorage’s starlit skies as early as 8 p.m. during winter months. Also known as the northern lights, they can be incredibly bright, multihued and fast moving.
Northern lights are a result of ionized gas particles increasing their speed and density while stirring within the Earth’s magnetic field. The result is an amazing phenomenon of undulating curtains of light that glow, dance, ripple and sway, fold and unfold then suddenly disappear, only to reform in a new shape minutes later. The most common color is a brilliant yellow-green. Colorful northern lights displays can produce red, blue and purple patterns.
Fall, winter and spring are the prime seasons for viewing the northern lights, and the best displays tend to be accompanied by subzero temperatures and moonless skies. The best hours are often near midnight. Of course, no one can guarantee when the aurora will be out.
Visitors who wish to spot the northern lights should plan to spend a few days because the aurora is, like the weather, variable. Local aurora forecasts are available from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute or in the weather section of the Alaska Dispatch News.
Location, Location, Location
Even though the summer evening skies are bright, visitors still find a way to enjoy the full splendor of Alaska’s northern lights. Projected in High Definition, “AurorA, The Great Northern Lights” is a stunning digital presentation by Aurora photographer Dave Parkhurst, set to classical music and shown daily in summer at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.