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Aurora activity predicted to be high in Alaska due to solar storm

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 5:44 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Over the next few days a solar storm is expected to reach earth causing increased activity in the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights.

Don Hampton, a research associate professor for the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks explained more about the solar storms, “What happens is at times there are these sun spots which sort of holds back that solar wind and then let a whole bunch of that solar wind out at one time and that is what creates what are called magnetic storms.”

He said that the sun experiences solar cycles, it recently reached what is known as solar minimum and this is the first major solar storm since the solar weather began being more active.

Solar storms are the perfect time to watch the northern lights, but weather on earth also is important. Luke Culver, a meteorologist at the national weather service says that the skies above Fairbanks should start to clear over the next few days and by Thursday night they should be mostly clear, giving those wanting to see the lights the perfect chance to view them.

With the good weather on earth and in space, the only thing left to do is figure out where and how to watch the lights.

“A couple of great locations that are fairly close, the pipeline viewpoint is a good spot that is close to town and you can see them from there. If you want to get a little bit further out and get a little bit better view with a little less light pollution, Cleary Summit and Murphy Dome are both excellent places. Then if you are in North Pole, Chena Lakes is a great spot as well,” said Ronn Murray, owner of The Aurora Chasers, an aurora watching tour guide company.

For those not in Fairbanks, he said to find someplace away from light pollution that has a clear view of the northern sky. He also said what people wear is important, “Make sure you dress appropriately for it, because if you don’t you’re not going to be outside enjoying them, you are going to be stuck in your car trying to staying warm.”

Murray suggested wearing warm winter gear and bringing hot drinks to ensure that you can watch them during their peak hours. He said the best time of night to watch them is between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.

Murray also said that people wanting to learn more about the lights and even how to photograph them can go to his YouTube channel.

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