Skip to main Content

Solar storm may cause radio black-outs, late-night northern lights in Alaska

  • Author:
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published May 13, 2013

A series of massive solar flares have in recent days erupted off the stormy surface of the sun; the last two were big enough to disrupt radio transmissions on Earth and likely produce aurora borealis shows that Southcentral Alaskans may witness after midnight, when the sun has finally gone down.

According to the astronomy news website Space Weather Live:

These solar flares are the biggest and heaviest of all. These flares can cause severe damage on Earth when the eruption took place near the center of the solar disk. Damage like radio black-outs, long lasting solar radiation storms and extreme aurora. Satellites can also be damaged.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers Alaskans a localized aurora borealis forecast via its Geophysical Institute. On Monday, the institute predicted northern lights displays across much of Interior Alaska, with aurora shows likely to reach farther south, into the Mat-Su and Anchorage, by early Wednesday morning.

Read more about summertime aurora: Bright nights, dazzling lights

Chasing northern lights during the summer months can be a hit-or-miss activity.

Looking for aurora borealis in the Alaska sky is always a game of chance: Even nights predicted to be excellent for northern lights viewing don't always pan out. Naturally, clear skies are a must. Light pollution must be minimal. And, of course, the universe itself has to cooperate, as supercharged particles ejected from the sun interact with Earth's thermosphere 60-70 miles overhead to produce the unforgettable light shows.

Northern lights can often be difficult to spot, but as the sun builds toward its highest level of activity -- expected to peak this year -- Alaskans get to enjoy the spectacular light show that begins millions of miles away.

When the stars are aligned, so to speak, spectacular northern lights observation under the vast skies of Alaska can be like nowhere else on the planet.

Considering a crack at northern lights photography? First, read this guide to photographing Alaska aurora borealis as they dance and dazzle overhead.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.