View Full Version : Can You See Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis On The AT?

12-29-2011, 02:55
While I realize that the Northern Lights or aurora borealis is considered a meteorological phenomenon, and not a special point of interest. However, are there locations or points along the trail where it is easier to see the Northern Lights? Or is there a specific time of the year when it is easier?

I plan on being at Mt. Katahdin around Labor Day 2012, if the time of year makes any difference... although, I realize the days will still be longer, then... :cool:

Thanks for any info folks can provide!

Ross / DirtyGirl

12-29-2011, 04:29
It would not be very likely to see them on Labor Day 2012 because:

1) there would have to be a solar storm / eruption to supply the charged solar particles that interact with the earths magnetic field creating the lights.
2) the full moon is on Aug 31 and Labor day is on Sept 3 - the moon will still be relatively full and would wash out or at minimum lessen the effect.
3) the sky would have to be clear, as clouds will also obscure the lights.
4) the earth's axis is not tilted enough yet at that time of year to optimally get the effect.

12-29-2011, 14:00
Northern Lights or aurora borealis ARE NOT A meteorological phenomenon. As 4eyedbuzzard pointed out, they occur as a result of a solar flare hitting the ionosphere. We are currently at or near the peak of the current 11 year sun spot cycle, which typically results in the solar storms responsable for Northern Lights, but this has been a very quiet sun spot cycle. Even during a very active sun spot period, it is rare that northern lights can be seen as far south as Maine. If you want to see the lights, you really need to get above the artic circle, in the middle of the winter and camp there for a month or so and maybe you will be lucky enough to see a display.

Wise Old Owl
12-29-2011, 18:12
Here in Pa near the scattered light of Philadelphia - The northern lights have only been visible twice in some 15 years.... Better chance in Maine.

12-29-2011, 18:43
Up here we start seeing them in August Sept they r fantastic! Head to Alaska if u want to c the lights

Pedaling Fool
03-08-2012, 10:28
Maybe a good chance at seeing something during this http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2108537,00.html#ixzz1oWzV5daS

03-08-2012, 12:53
Obviously the further south the more rare but I lived in Harpers Ferry/Shepherdstown for 10 years back in the late 70s and early 80s and there were a couple of occasions when we caught site of them. Had to be the right combination of solar storm and clear skies but I have seen them that far south. Nothing you can count on though.

03-08-2012, 13:08
About 6 years ago I witnessed a great display at the south end of Flagstaff Lake (after you come off of Little Bigelow to a short gravel road walk-NOBO). It had all the elements, kind of shooting star, cascades, wave action, the works. Laid on the pebble beach and watched for about an hour, around 9 or 10 PM. This occured the weekend after Labor Day for one night. Have not seen them since. Keep a good thought!

Feral Bill
03-08-2012, 13:24
This (http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/) site has lots of useful data for sky watching and general trip planning. Take a look.

Jim Adams
03-08-2012, 14:20
I get to see them about once every three years on my Canadian canoe trips. In my opinion, they are the most spectacular thing in nature. The earliest I have seen them was August 17 and usually abut 200-300 miles north of Toronto which in some parts isn't any further north than Maine. I have seen them in Pennsylvania though. The most incredible display was in late September, filled the entire northern sky and lasted for hours.


TJ aka Teej
03-08-2012, 20:19
Congrats on your JMT hike! The simple answer is - ya never know. Remember they are not a nightly occurrence. Sometimes everything works out - like the time I took the kids up onto the Hunt Spur to watch the Pleiades and we were treated to a surprise red/purple/green sheet aurora. But it could've been cloudy and canceled the show.

03-08-2012, 20:56
One year (i want to say 1997?) they were very prominent at the gathering held at Dartmouth that year. (2nd weekend of Oct)
It was Friday night at the campfire.
I've only seen them in the east 3 or 4 times in my life and I've lived in Maine for a year and travel up there a lot.
It's not a common thing by any means around the AT.
You'll be lucky to see them. IMO

03-08-2012, 21:33
Goggle NOAA/space weather prediction center.Lot of good information.