Can I see the aurora?

To determine if the aurora will be visible from your area, follow these steps for using the auroral forecast website.


Step 1. Check the level of activity necessary for your area

First read the section on Interpreting the Auroral Forecast and select a map there that is appropriate for your area. You will see your map displayed for each of the 10 forecast levels (0 to 9). Find the levels where your location is inside the green line. For example, on the North America map, Chicago requires a 3 to see the aurora on the northern horizon and at least a 5 to see it overhead.


Step 2. Check activity predicted for the day of interest.

Return to the main Forecast for the day of interest. Select a map that is appropriate for your area. If your location is within the green line on the equatorward side of the green and white band around the pole, you should plan on aurora watching that night.


Step 3. Check the short-term forecast.

To see if the aurora will be visible from your location within the next hour, look at the "short term forecast" on the right-hand side of the display. This is a continually updated forecast, based on an actual satellite measurement, so if it shows an index 5 and you are in Seattle, Chicago, New York City, Halifax or anywhere under the green and white band, then there is aurora overhead. If the sun is down, you should go outside, away from city lights with a view of the poleward horizon and look for it. It will be most active between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.


Step 4. Check the Current Auroral Activity

The current auroral activity from NOAA/POES satellite is also available on the forecast site. Use it to see where there is aurora at the moment.


Step 5. Plan ahead.

To plan a trip to the auroral zone, use the "Auroral Activity by Solar Rotation" (to the right on the web page). The maximum activity expected on each day is plotted there for 28 days in advance. Check the Traveler’s Guide to the Aurora for when and where to travel.

UAF is an AA/EO employer and educational institution. Last update Winter 2010 by Webmaster.
Copyright © 2010 Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks.