MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: When to view northern lights on east coast???

Date: Thu Dec 30 20:08:22 1999
Posted By: Justin Miller, Undergraduate, computer science, Geneva College
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 946538480.As

The best general answer I can give you is that you probably can't ever go 
to Maine to see an aurora borealis.  HOWEVER--it is not impossible.

The only thing on which the viewing area depends is the amount of solar 
activity.  The more activity there is, the farther south you can view the 
aurora borealis (and, coincidentally, the farther north you can view an 
aurora australis).

A good site describing this further can be viewed with this link: ht

David Stern of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center answered your question 
as well, with this quote:

"Usually, you can see auroras...near the magnetic pole.  In the United 
States, you would probably go to Alaska--Fairbanks, even Anchorage--you 
have to go away, of course, from streetlights, and so forth.  Winnipeg, 
[Manitoba,] Canada, is really in a good position, because the {north] 
magnetic pole of the Earth, as you might know, [is] not exactly where the 
North Pole is; [it is] some distance away, and we're lucky that the 
distance away is towards the United States, so you don't have to go so far 
north in the United States to be at the certain distance from the magnetic 
pole.  On the other hand, if you are in Russia, it works the other way. 
Now, you are at a disadvantage.  So, if you go to Winnipeg in Canada, for 
instance, you will possibly see [an] aurora..."

He goes on to explain that they interfere with television reception, and 
that the farther north you go, they are more common.  If you go into outer 
space, you can see auroras nearly every day.

The University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute posts a daily auroral 
forecast at this link, so you can see each day where the best spot to view 
an aurora would be: http://w

Thanks for the question, and I hope this helps you out.

Justin Miller
Geneva College

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