Calling all Aurora chasers - There's a chance at a show this week! As I mentioned in a story earlier this summer, the odds of good Northern Lights shows in Minnesota & Wisconsin for the next (roughly) two years will be better than normal.
This is due to the sun approaching its peak of activity, which will happen by the summer of 2025. Known as the "solar maximum", this active part of the sun's multi-year activity cycle promises to bring more opportunities and better shows for a number of months ahead.
While accurately forecasting a good Northern Lights show is notoriously difficult, the best thing you can do as someone who wants to see the Aurora Borealis is to look for conditions to be promising.
Kind of like storm chasing, the best you can do is look for the ingredients to be there and put yourself in a position to see a good show. The "storm" might not always materialize, or be as amazing as you had hoped, but as long as you go into things knowing that, you'll get lucky and see some breathtaking shows over time.
This week is just such an example of conditions being right for the potential of a good show. No guarantees, but the odds are in your favor.
When will Northern Lights viewing be best this week?
The catalyst for this week's potential for some good Northern Lights is what NOAA calls a moderate "G2" geomagnetic storm from what scientists call a coronal mass ejection (CME). A CME is basically a blast of energy from the sun.
This week's solar weather event is expected to be at its most intense on Monday night, with almost all of Minnesota and Wisconsin in range to have the potential to see a show. The further north, the better a show you could be in for - if things develop.
Timing is expected to be best (conveniently) after dark, after 10 pm, carrying into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
While Monday is expected to be the prime night for viewing, there is an additional (lesser) chance for Tuesday night. The way things look right now, you'll really want to try to get out Monday night if you can, rather than going out on Tuesday night.
Northern Lights viewing tips
Basic tips to get the best viewing/photographing experience include:
- Get away from city lights - the further away from light pollution, the better!
- Look North - Whether just a glow or a full, dancing show, it'll be on the northern horizon
- Have a clear view - Looking across a lake or field will offer more open sky to see the show
- Let your eyes adjust - Give your eyes time to adjust to darkness by turning off car lights, flashlights, and phone/camera screens
- Photo tip: Have an interesting foreground subject - The Northern Lights can be stunning, but having something to your shot to add perspective or make your image unique can make for a much more interesting image
In the meantime, here are some incredible photos from a show back in May of this year: