What better way to start off the new year than with the aurora borealis dancing overhead? Forecasts show that the northern lights will likely be visible for much of the state on the first day of 2014, weather permitting, and will continue to grace the atmosphere for several days.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an active aurora starting around 3 p.m. Alaska time Wednesday, with aurora expected to be visible from the Arctic coast to the southern tip of Southeast Alaska. Auroral displays will likely remain active through Thursday night, according to NOAA forecasts, although it may be visible only as far south as the Kenai Peninsula.
The Aurora Forecast at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute forecasts moderate aurora activity for Wednesday, and an active aurora on both Thursday and Friday.
Spotting the byproduct of the sun's coronal mass ejections -- blobs of supercharged plasma that interact with the Earth's magnetosphere -- as they reach the home planet depends on weather conditions, and cloudy skies forecast across Alaska may obstruct viewing on New Year's day. The Northern coast of Alaska is forecast to be partly cloudy on Wednesday, while the Interior city of Fairbanks -- often heralded as one of the best aurora viewing locations in the world -- is expected to be mostly cloudy. The Kuskokwim Delta is forecast to be mostly cloudy with scattered snow showers. Anchorage and the greater Southcentral region also have a cloudy evening predicted. Juneau can likely expect rain and snow.
New Year's Day also brings the first new moon of the year, making for darker night skies and better viewing possibilities if the skies are clear.
To view the aurora, seek out a location away from light pollution. Traditionally, a good time for aurora viewing is between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., but during strong solar storms aurora can be seen at all hours after the sky darkens. Want to capture the moment? Check out more tips and tricks on how to photograph the northern lights.
In anticipation of tonight's possible show, check out Alaska Dispatch photographer Loren Holmes' stunning aurora timelapse video -- one of the top-viewed articles for Alaska Dispatch in 2013. Viewing in full-screen is recommended.
Do you have amazing aurora photos you’d like to share? Send them to info(at)alaskadispatch.com