Chasing the aurora in the Mat-Su Valley

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, is a phenomenon that occurs in the winter night sky. Plumes or pinks, greens and reds dance across the horizon, much to the amazement of visitors and locals alike. They can only be found in northern latitudes, mostly near the Arctic Circle, making the Mat-Su Valley a great place to try to catch a glimpse of them.

When they occur

The best time for viewing the northern lights is on cold, dark nights in December through March. However, that's not the only time they are present - there have been dazzling displays as early as Labor Day, and as late as May. Because the nights are much longer in December and January, that makes them perfect times. The lights often come out very late in the evening and early morning hours. There is even an aurora borealis predictor from the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute HERE.

Where to view the northern lights

The best places to view the northern lights is anywhere away from the harsh city lights that obstruct the view. Best bets include the northern end of the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway, the Knik River Valley, Hatcher Pass, and farther north on the Parks Highway including Talkeetna and Denali State Park.

How to view them

Patience is a virtue - there are no guarantees! The best advice is to be prepared, however - get to your desired location before they are dancing across the sky, dress warm in layers, protect camera gear from the conditions, brings snacks and warm beverages and be ready when they finally do appear. 

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