One of the things that has sat at the top of my bucket list has been to see the Northern Lights. I think the Lights are beautiful and mysterious, the cultural significance is fascinating, and the fact it is naturally occurring has never ceased to blow me away.


Beautiful green northern lights and snowmobile on foreground, Norway
Natalia Sokko


So I was thrilled when I learned that 2024 will apparently be the best year to see the Northern Lights aka the Aurora Borealis in nearly 20 years. For those who don't know, the Aurora Borealis occurs when particles from the sun aka solar wind collide with gases in the Earth's atmosphere. This collision causes a reaction that emits various colors of light depending on which gas is reacting to the particles. The Lights are more visible towards the Earth's poles as this is where the reactions typically take place.




However, this year things will be a little different. The viewing of the northern lights will be especially strong this year because the sun is reaching the peak of its 11-year cycle, resulting in the sun being at its Solar Maximum. The Sun will be more active and send out more particles than usual, resulting in more reactions hitting the atmosphere.



The Northern Lights visible in Minnesota
Blue Barron Photo


According to Don Hampton, research associate professor at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks,  Michiganders might not need to go too far to see the aurora borealis as a result. Hampton claims that,

"I don’t think it is too wild a prediction to say that people in the midwest and maybe even lower midwest (40th parallel) will have a good chance to see aurora once or twice during this solar cycle, but there are no guarantees,”


Michiganders sometimes have a chance to see the Northern Lights in the Upper Peninsula, but based on Hampton's insights, the lights will be visible farther south than usual which bodes well for those who don't want to travel long distances. If you want to learn the best ways to see the Northern Lights, check out this list of expert tips.


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