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When is the best time to view the Northern Lights?

Updated: May 12

Welcome to another Q&A post, part of a series where I answer the most common questions folks ask me about the night sky in New England.

Typically, the hours of 10pm - 2am New England time are the best part of the night for viewing the aurora. Because of the way the aurora is created, the strongest lights will usually be over the part of the planet that's directly opposite the sun. In most places, this time is midnight.

The sweet spot is therefore two hours on either side of local midnight, since the lights can show up late or early, and intense storms can push the lights into our skies way before or after. During particularly strong solar storms, I recommend increasing your viewing window to 9pm-3am, and in some cases, the lights can be visible from sunset to sunrise, as was the case during the May 2024 solar storm.

Sunspots on the sun

As far as certain times of year to see the lights, there is evidence that the days around the spring and fall equinoxes can boost your chances of seeing the lights, but without good solar activity, the influence of the equinoxes will not be enough to help you out. Solar activity on the other hand, is on an upward trend as the sun approaches solar maximum. Every eleven years, the sun reaches its peak activity, where more sunspots, solar flares, and CMEs are expected, generating more solar storms. The current solar cycle is expected to peak in 2025, making anytime from now to early 2027 a great time to be an aurora chaser!

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