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prince34

Northern Lights

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Hello,

My wife and I want to plan a cruise to Alaska either in 2020 or 2021. We want to see the Northern Lights while we are there. Does anyone know what time of the year and which cities are best for viewing the lights?

Thanks

prince34

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You need darkness to see the Lights.  Cruises occur during the summer months when there is too much daylight.  On rare ocassions, cruise passengers have seen the Lights during a Sept cruise, but it's not something to count on.

 

If you really want to experience the Northern Lights, visit Fairbanks in mid February when there are other winter activities to enjoy, like the Int'l Ice Sculpting or dog sledding.

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Well since its daylight for almost 18+ hours in the summer it is not a given.  The later in the season might better for sightings, but then the weather might not be as nice for cruising.....

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Since this has nothing to do with NCL, a better place to ask would be in the Ports of Call/Alaska forum. Also, some basic internet research on viewing the Northern Lights would be helpful too. Good luck!

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I did a cruisetour in mid-September.  Saw northern lights from the field in back of our hotel in Fairbanks.  Nothing fancy, was a full moon and they were still visible.

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The only chance to see it on a cruise would be in the very beginning or very end of the season. I went on the first cruise of the season and was forecasted to be able to see them... but it was raining that day so the clouds hid everything. 

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The farther north you go - think Fairbanks - the better the chance of catching a display. But... the farther south will get you more dark hours. That can also increase your chances. There are sites to set up alerts to know when aurora may happen. It also is weather permitting. There are a number of dedicated aurora tour companies. We are looking at going back to Alaska in late August, early September 2021. To get estimates of dark hours, we've used https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/usa/fairbanks

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Have seen them twice on cruises leaving at the end of August.  This year was the best when sailing on the Millennium from Vancouver - August 30th.   They were visible 2 nights in a row - leaving Sitka and then again between Icy Strait and Juneau. 

 

Hadn't seen them since I was a kid in Michigan so it was a real treat to see them at sea. :classic_biggrin:

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OP: "Does anyone know what time of the year and which cities are best for viewing the lights?

Thanks"

 

Well, it's not so much the time of year as the the year that you choose.
Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis - are a function of sunspot activity (even though it's dark when you see them!). 
The more sunspots - and their greater intensity - the more northern lights there are and the farther south it is possible to see them.
Sunspot activity runs in an aproximately 11 year cycle, with a peak of activity and a low of activity occuring during each cycle. We don't know why.
Here's the point. Unfortunately, 2020 is at the low point of the 11-year cycle, with very few sunspots,  at low intensities.

This is not to say you won't see any (as Cruises42 above proves) but you should consider yourself fortunate if you do. 

As for "cities" - they are the worst place to view anything in the night sky, at any time. For your best chance, head as far away from man-made light as you can. A light-sheltered spot aboard your ship will be much better than any city. You'll know you're in the right place when you gaze up at the stars and find yourself saying "Wow. I never knew there were so many stars!".

Good luck.

 

 

 

Edited by Canuker

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