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Auroras in Alaska
Old 09-13-2017, 11:26 AM   #1
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Auroras in Alaska

DW and I are looking at going to Alaska for northern lights next winter. Questions: Would Fairbanks be noticeably better than near Anchorage or Talkeetna? Would February or March be better? Any other guidance? Thanks.

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Old 09-13-2017, 11:41 AM   #2
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I have not been in Alaska, but I don't think the latitude difference makes much difference between the three. It's all about minimizing light pollution and having clear skies, I assume Anchorage would have a fair bit of light pollution. I'm sure someone else can provide more details than I can, but I assume February would be better from a darkness standpoint, but weather conditions might be better in March?!

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Old 09-13-2017, 12:14 PM   #3
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We were in Alaska this summer. Tour guide said that September is a good time to watch Northern Lights. The weather is not beastly bad, and a reasonable sundown time to observe northern lights.

It does not take much of a drive from Fairbanks to get away from the lights. You can take a train from Fairbanks to Talkeetna, looks like that service ends on September 16th. Spend a few days in Fairbanks, a day or two in Denali, then a couple days in Talkeetna, then back to Fairbanks. Travel by train.
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Old 09-13-2017, 01:52 PM   #4
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Lived in Alaska for 4 years recently, in Fairbanks and then closer Anchorage in Palmer. Saw more of the northern lights in Fairbanks, my theory was that the terrain was flatter in Fairbanks and views tended to less blocked by ridges and hills. Fairbanks would also would give you the chance to possibly experience -40F to -50F, which I can say I was colder in the Palmer area at 5F with wind chill than I was in Fairbanks at -50F with minimal wind.
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Old 09-13-2017, 09:28 PM   #5
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Cloudy weather plays a part in viewing. Fairbanks is likely to have more clear days/nights than Anchorage.
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Old 09-13-2017, 09:38 PM   #6
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There's a resort about 50 miles outside of Fairbanks called Chena Hot Springs. It's a great place to view the aurora.
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Old 09-13-2017, 10:41 PM   #7
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Fairbanks has some of the best viewing in the state. There's a lot of light pollution so heading to Chena Hot Springs is definitely a good idea. If you do an internet search there are also "forecasts" that are quite accurate that will tell you a few days in advance how intense they are going to be. The cool thing about Chena is they will wake you up whenever the aurora is peaking. Fun side note: apparently the Japanese believe it's easier to conceive a child under the aurora so the place is often filled with Japanese tourists!
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Old 09-14-2017, 07:06 AM   #8
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I was going to mention that Japanese tourist phenomenon and reports that they believe the aurora affects conception. But I thought I'd better verify it, and came up with conflicting information. Here's a NY Times travel story in which a source calls the legend "a crock."

The story says the Japanese love the extreme cold and venture northward in the dead of winter at the same time we westerners head south to escape the chill -- an idea I find nearly as intriguing as the conception of a boy or a "lucky" child. Of course, the Times is only reporting another opinion here and not any definitive authority on the topic.

We were up there in early September one year and found Chena packed with Japanese tourists, so it's popular even when it isn't below zero -- although there was a definite chill in the air just after Labor Day.
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Old 09-14-2017, 07:43 AM   #9
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There are many websites you can go to for a prediction. Generally, more north is better. I am in Glacier NP this week, and was looking to see them too.

I did see firefighter planes dumping water and the Spraag fire from a distance. That was cool too, although devastating.

Aurora - 3 Day Forecast | NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center

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