The northern lights, also called aurora borealis, are a phenomenon that has fascinated humanity for many years, but, unfortunately, we are not able to know exactly when will take place one of these luminous phenomena.
In fact, as we explain in this post, the formation of the northern lights exclusively depends on solar activity, and, even if we can approximately predict when it will be more elevated, the best we can do is provide some approximate time scales during which aurora borealis will be more frequent.
The solar cycle
Our Sun goes through an activity cycle that lasts for about 11 years. During this time, the Sun passes through a Solar Maximum (highest solar activity) and a Solar Minimum (lowest solar activity). When it is the most active, the Sun emits many more plasma particles (the responsible for the aurora borealis) and experiments many more solar flares, which can also provoke incredible northern lights.
So, the northern lights are more frequent during the Solar Maximum, which occurred for the last time in 2014. In consequence, the next period of maximum solar activity will be in 2025, even if the aurora borealis are equally frequent about two years before and after every activity peak.
The best time of the year
After observing northern lights for years, we haven’t any evidence that these phenomena are more common at a certain time of the year than others.
The aurora borealis are solely visible by the human eye on dark nights without clouds.
So, the longer the night, the more possibilities we will have to see one of these light spectacles. In consequence, the best months for northern lights observation are the ones between November and March, during which nights are very long, and, in some places, the Sun doesn’t even arise.
Where to see the aurora borealis
The best places to see the northern lights are in the latitudes close to the poles of the Earth (on the north pole they are named northern lights, while on the south pole they are called southern lights).
Some of the best countries to see these light spectacles on the north pole are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Alaska, Greenland, or the north of Canada.
On the south pole, however, the countries are not very numerous and the southern lights take mainly place over water surfaces or in Antarctica. The best places to see the southern lights are New Zealand, Australia or Tasmania.
In conclusion, we can not predict with exactitude where or when these great light spectacles will take place, and the only thing we can do is give approximate time scales or places to observe them.