One benefit of living in northern Minnesota is the opportunity to view the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). The arrival of Winter means increasingly optimal viewing conditions due to longer periods of darkness, and less moisture in the air. However, like most of you, I love to sleep! This fact means it is very easy to miss these gorgeous displays. Enter a simple Northern Lights app named Aurora Forecast (links to app: iOS | Android). This free app allows the user to view the latest forecast from one to many days out in the future. In addition, the app gives the current solar conditions. I've included a few annotated screenshots later on in the post. Although the screenshots were taken on my iPad, the user interface is 100% identical on my Android smartphone.
To determine whether it's really worth getting out of bed at 3 am, you should take a few more actions:
- Install a weather forecasting app. If it's cloudy, unless you know someone with a plane, you won't see much!
- Install a moon phase app. Even if the skies are clear, if the moon is close to full, the northern lights display will be sub-optimal due to excessive moonshine. Lots of moon phase apps exist for both iOS and Android. Just search on "moon phase" in your apps store.
- Sign up for the Northern Lights alert service from the University of Alaska (free!)
For the final item, visit the University of Alaska web site and fill out a brief form. You will then receive alerts via email when the conditions are greater than a "4" (see below ... forecast).
If you expect to visit northern regions of our planet, these simple apps and services can assist you in determining whether it's worth getting out of bed on a cold Winter's night! A display of the Aurora Borealis in the northern skies is truly a thing of awe and beauty. You may wish to visit my post from last February which reviews additional resources on this subject.
Click upon any image to view at full resolution.
Northern Lights Forecast (multiple days out & today)
Note: Do not compare the numeric value for the forecast vs the daily activity. Compare each number with trend data for that particular service. My own experience indicates these are different variables. I have never seen a forecast with a value greater than five, and the University of Alaska sends out an alert when the forecast reaches four.
Current daily conditions: map
In closing, what would any blog post be without a virtual tour of the Northern Lights? Enjoy this time lapse display taken of the Norwegian skies set to some great music!
If you liked this video, link to this page for even more northern lights beauty and music!