It’s official: Northern lights season is back
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
If you’ve been dreaming about seeing the northern lights, we’ve got good news: Aurora-viewing season is back.
The days have been getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere since late June, and there are now more than enough hours of darkness to see the shimmering auroras. Best of all, this has been a relatively mild autumn so far, meaning travelers in pursuit of the elusive northern lights early in the season may not have to stand outside in freezing temperatures waiting for a solar flare to pierce the Earth’s magnetic field.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Destinations north of the Arctic Circle in Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden may be some of the most famous places to see the northern lights, but you don’t need to fly to Europe or book a high-end vacation package to catch a glimpse of atoms and particles colliding in a colorful, celestial display.
In fact, you can sometimes see auroras over parts of North America when the weather is favorable (think: dark, clear nights and a particularly powerful solar storm). Already, in late September, the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a geomagnetic storm watch for areas of Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota — there were even reports that auroras might be visible in parts of New England, the Pacific Northwest, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
And last year, TPG’s editor-at-large, Zach Honig, viewed the aurora borealis from Alaska.
Whether you’re planning to travel to see the northern lights this year or would rather stay close to home and hope for a powerful solar wind to interact with Earth’s atmosphere on a particularly clear night, you can still improve your odds of witnessing this phenomenon.
First, you’ll want to keep an eye on NOAA’s aurora and geomagnetic forecasts. Watch the Kp index, specifically, which measures aurora strength. The index is generally less than 4, so your chances of seeing the lights are slightly greater than usual when the Kp index is 4 or higher. The index ranges from 0 to 9, with 0 being the weakest and 9 being a strong geomagnetic storm.
Then, brush up on your night photography tips and tricks. Chances are, any photo you’ve ever seen of the northern lights has been shot with extended exposure. If you’re working with a standard camera, get a tripod and use a shutter speed of 1 second or longer. Nowadays, you might even be able to get away with using your smartphone to document the northern lights. The newest generation of smartphones can finally compete with traditional cameras, even in low light. If your device (think: the new iPhone 12, the latest from Samsung’s Galaxy line-up or the Google Pixel) has a night mode setting, you should be all set.
Related: The 7 best starter credit cards
And if you’re ready to plan a trip to see the northern lights this year, remember that travel expenses should be booked with a credit card that maximizes your spend, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, both of which earn 3x points on travel (on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each cardmember year on the Ink Business Preferred).
Featured photo by Sjo/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees