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The Northern Lights Are Going To Be Brighter And More Active In 2024 Than They Have Been In Over 20 Years

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Are you still trying to figure out your travel plans for 2024? Don’t worry – we might’ve just solved them for you. According to NASA scientists, the Northern Lights will be brighter, more active, and more widespread than they’ve been in over two decades – making it one of the hottest tourist attractions in 2024. If you’ve never seen them, this is your chance!

What Are The Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights, also known as ‘aurora borealis,’ are one of Earth’s most beautiful treasures – a light show like you’ve never seen (until you’ve seen it, but then you still don’t believe it). You can observe the natural phenomenon in various parts of the world – primarily around the Earth’s north and south poles.

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Believe it or not, we owe these beautiful ribbons of light to the sun – that big orange thing 93 million miles away. They occur when the sun spits solar winds toward our planet, sending charged particles into our atmosphere – where they interact with gases. This natural reaction emits an alluring light display in the clear sky.

Why Is 2024 The Best Year To See It?

2024 is going to be a very active year for the sun. Sunspots (storms that occur on the sun’s surface) are happening more frequently and violently, meaning our atmosphere is getting hit with more particles – making lights more visible. This period of high activity normally occurs every nine to 14 years.

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Not only will the Northern Lights be more visible (and electric), but they’ll also appear in areas of the world that aren’t usually lucky enough to witness its beauty. The more powerful the solar wind, the further out the particles travel. Lucky for you, the solar winds in 2024 will be epic beyond belief.

We’re In A Solar Maximum – Not A Solar Minimum

The sun operates on what we call a solar cycle – which is characterized by a solar maximum (when sunspots are most violent) and a solar minimum (when sunspots are least violent). Each cycle lasts an average of 11 years, but some cycles are as long as 14-15 years. We’re currently in a solar maximum – hence the increase in solar activity.

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The absolute solar maximum occurs when the sun’s polarity flips, but it only marks the halfway point – with some scientists claiming that the sunspots are most violent during the second wave. And that’s exactly what we’re at the peak of right now – that magnificent second wave. It only happens every decade, so embrace it while you can!

Scientists Say Solar Cycle 25 Will Be Stronger Than Solar Cycle 24

Solar Cycle 24 lasted exactly 11 years – beginning in December 2008, when sun activity was at its lowest point, and peaking in April 2014. The cycle ended in December 2019, marking the beginning of Solar Cycle 25 – the cycle we’re currently in now. At the time, experts predicted 25 to be similar to 24.

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But they were wrong. According to the NOAA, solar winds are set to ‘increase more quickly and peak at a higher level’ than originally predicted. They also expect the cycle to peak between January and October of 2024 – though some experts are saying it could bleed into 2025. Either way, all that hype is starting to make sense.

Best Places To See The Northern Lights In The United States

For those who want to stay in the United States, don’t worry – you’ve got options! Fairbanks, Alaska is one of the most popular destinations – though most cities in Alaska feature impressive displays. Northern Maine is another popular option, but we recommend going as north as possible for the best photo opportunities.

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Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which borders three of the Great Lakes, is another treasured viewing spot – especially near Lake Superior, such as Keweenaw Dark Sky Park. Our final suggestion is Minnesota – with its wide selection of inland lakes. Again, the better light displays are usually found in the northern regions – as close to Canada as you can get!

Best Places To See The Northern Lights Worldwide

The United States is tough to beat, but some of the best Northern Lights displays happen in other parts of the world – such as Finland, Iceland, Norway, Northern Canada, Sweden, and Scotland. When you combine some of the backdrops in these countries with the gorgeous light show in the sky – it makes for a memorable experience that lasts forever!

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The Lyngen Alps (east of Tromso, Norway) are known for their ski resorts, but don’t let that distract you from what’s happening above you. The Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs in Whitehorse, Canada is a unique experience that boasts outdoor soaking pools, while Orkney (a group of islands in northern Scotland) boasts low pollution and unobstructed views.

When Is The Best Time Of Year/Day To See The Northern Lights?

First off, the best time of year to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights is late fall – especially in 2024. With solar activity expected to peak around October, that’s when the Northern Lights will be the brightest. You’ll also be met with a lot of snow in some areas, which adds to the effect of those stunning photo ops!

Source: Tobias Bjorkli/Pexels

With that said, the best time of day to see the Aurora Borealis is between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. – it’s difficult to see the lights during the day, but they might be visible during sunrise. Most ribbons of light appear for a minute or two before disappearing – but new ones form often.

Are The Northern Lights Always A Blue-Green Color? 

Blue and green are the two most common colors people see when viewing the Northern Lights. The blue (sometimes purple) lights are a result of charged particles colliding with hydrogen and helium in Earth’s atmosphere, while the green lights appear when particles collide with oxygen – but those aren’t the only colors you’ll come across.

Source: Tobias Bjorkli/Pexels

Pink and dark red lights generally appear around the lower edge of the ribbon, and are usually caused by nitrogen molecules coming into contact with charged particles. A red aurora can also be seen when oxygen collides with these particles at a higher altitude. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a combination of these colors!

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Ryan Handson

Written by Ryan Handson

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