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Alaska Beat

Spectacular northern lights show sneaks up on Alaska

  • Author: Ben Anderson
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published October 13, 2012

Sometimes, the northern lights come out when you least expect them. Friday night was one of those times. A spectacular display of northern lights bathed much of the state in a cool green glow, with the aurora so bright it could even be seen amid the bright lights of downtown Anchorage.

While solar activity -- which is typically responsible for auroral displays on Earth -- has been high lately, the predictions for Friday were relatively calm. Space weather predictions called for only mild geomagnetic activity, meaning there was a possibility for little, if any, aurora. The aurora forecast available from the University of Alaska Fairbanks had predicted only "quiet" auroral activity, with a possibility of being visible overhead in Barrow, but not even stretching to Fairbanks.

Instead, nearly the whole state got a show. Readers on Alaska Dispatch's Facebook page said that they could see them everywhere from Delta Junction, Talkeetna and Kenai to Emmonak and New Stuyahok. One Dispatch staffer even reported seeing them in downtown Anchorage, testifying to the strength of the display.

Southeast Alaska may have been among the few areas to miss the show, though, readers in Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka all reported clouds and rain. Juneau on Friday got its first snowfall, according to the National Weather Service.

Tonight's aurora forecast is a little more optimistic than Friday's, though only "low" activity is predicted. You can check the weather in your area at the National Weather Service.

But just like any kind of weather, predicting space weather isn't an exact science. The show may continue tonight, so if the skies are clear where you are, be sure to pause a moment and look to the heavens.

And if you do catch a glimpse, we're always excited to see your photos to be included in our running reader gallery of northern lights. Send them to info(at)

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)

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