Winter nights bring dancing lights

Fall in Alaska comes with many perks - sightings of migratory birds and Alaskans heading to warmer climes, but best is the darkness that brings the awesome Aurora Borealis.

Now Explore Fairbanks has a website that shows you the potential for aurora viewing and how many hours of daylight there is at any given time. While it may be sad to watch the light fade, after Dec. 21 there is the joy of seeing the minutes of light adding up. Go to

Fairbanks is the place

Fairbanks sets the stage for outstanding aurora viewing during aurora season, Aug. 21 through April 21, spanning all four seasons and nine months of the year. Due to Fairbanks' location directly under the "Auroral Oval," while seeing the northern lights is commonplace, it is never boring.

In fact, if you are actively out during evening hours your chance of seeing the aurora surges to more than 90 percent.

Fairbanks is in an extraordinarily lucky location on the 65th parallel in the sub-arctic, with low precipitation and distance from coastal areas, which both contribute to clear skies.

Lastly, a low population, low light pollution and long nights for most of the year contribute to darker skies optimal for northern lights viewing. All of these reasons make Fairbanks one of the best locations in the state to view the aurora.

The Aurora Viewing Map and Guide also offers the core science behind the aurora, basics on photographing the northern lights, as well as pro tips for aurora chasing and FAQs. Aurora travelers to the Fairbanks area can pick up the one-of-a-kind Explore Fairbanks Aurora Viewing Map and Guide for free at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in downtown Fairbanks. An interactive online version can be seen at 

Other resources

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute also has a site that tells you if the aurora will be "quiet" or "active," and a graphic that shows where the lights are over Alaska. Visit

There's also a favorite of mine, Space Weather at that predicts when the aurora might be out based on solar flares.

Space Weather also alerts you to upcoming meteor showers and comets that Alaskans can see.

Don't miss the Leonids meteor shower, active from Nov. 3 to Dec. 2. Peak nights are Nov. 17 to 18. The Leonids are famous for occasionally producing meteor storms. Maybe this year will be that year.

As the late Jack Horkheimer said at the end of his show "Star Gazer," on the Public Broadcasting System: "Keep looking up!"