As Russians recovered from the damage caused by western Siberia meteors, injuring up to 1,100 people, and scientists from NASA and around the world were captivated by the Asteroid 2012 DA 14 passing near Earth, Alaskans had their own space phenomena to anticipate. Space weather watchers forecast a high likelihood for aurora borealis over the circumpolar north this weekend.
Northern lights should shimmer overhead once the sun sets and snow showers dissipate Friday evening. When skies are clear, aurora may be visible throughout the weekend.
Geophysicists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks were officially calling for "moderate" aurora borealis prospects, with northern lights displays visible over Alaska from Barrow south to Anchorage and beyond. Skywatchers as far away as Juneau and other parts of Southeast Alaska may be able to see the lights.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute provides daily forecasts that help skywatchers and amateur astronomers gauge the likelihood of aurora activity. But even when the forecast is "moderate" or "quiet," there's still a chance to see aurora, particularly within the Auroral Oval, where northern lights are visible all year once the sun sets. Check out the photos above, many from this week, despite "quiet" forecasts most days.
How to photograph the northern lights
Capturing the aurora borealis with a camera may seem complex, but it's a fun family-friendly activity that also encourages everyone to get outside. Finding good locations, forecast watching and camera handling are important for capturing ideal northern lights photographs.
Partly cloudy skies can also provide great conditions for depth in your aurora photos. This takes some practice once you view some of your photos you will be hooked and want to add to the experience.
Traditionally, good times for aurora viewing and photographing is between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. But don't bank on it: during strong solar storms aurora can be seen at all hours once the sky darkens.
More tips and tricks are available in our How To Photograph Alaska's Aurora Borealis guide.