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Phenomenon: Northern Lights

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

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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