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Backpacker Magazine – April 2008

Phenomenon: Northern Lights

The science behind the sky's natural fireworks display–and how to see it.

by: Katherine Leitzell

PAGE 1 2 3
Illustration by Bryon Thompson
Illustration by Bryon Thompson
Illustration by Bryon Thompson
Illustration by Bryon Thompson

How to Catch the Northern Lights
Go dark Ideal aurora viewing conditions require clear skies, minimal light pollution, and a view of the northern horizon. The best time to observe is between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., when the tail of the magnetosphere extends away from the sun.

Shoot Long
You'll need a tripod to photograph most displays. Start with a shutter speed of 15 seconds, an aperture of f2.0, and an ISO between 400 and 800. Use a remote shutter release, or set digital cameras on a timer to avoid jostling the camera during exposure.

And a 30 Percent Chance of Aurora... Planning a trip up north? Check the long-term aurora forecast up to four weeks in advance at this University of Alaska website: gedds.alaska.edu/auroraforecast.


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Cool article on the BWCA Aurora Borealis. Does anyone know what dates they'll peak in 2012 and 2013? Sounds like that's the time to hit the BWCA trails!

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