Magazine article Sunset

Aurora-Watching Season Heats Up: The Case for Why You Must Go to Alaska When Its Cold and Dark, Just for a Chance at the Most Dazzling View on the Planet

Magazine article Sunset

Aurora-Watching Season Heats Up: The Case for Why You Must Go to Alaska When Its Cold and Dark, Just for a Chance at the Most Dazzling View on the Planet

Article excerpt

In the end, you might not even see it. You've spent thousands of dollars and a week's vacation to be where it's cold and dark. And you need to know that it may be for nothing. The aurora borealis (the north-r----ern lights) is the most mind-altering spectacle on our planet. It's also nature's biggest tease.

I'd wanted to see the aurora all my life: Blame those childhood visits to L.A.'s Griffith Observatory. I knew the aurora occurs when solar particles shoot earthward and hit our magnetic field and--actually, I don't have a clue. I never got the physics. I just pictured a bored sun intermittently zapping Earth so it sizzles like that Manhattan building in Ghostbusters. But the zapping happens at the poles and is visible only in the clear night sky.

Which is why I landed in Fairbanks a few years back, with 19-hour nights and lows of -19[degrees]. An aurora website predicted a busy week, electron-wise, and the weather called for cloudless night skies. (Fairbanks gets clear winter skies, making it a world center of aurora tourism. …

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