Check out some of the great aurora photos YOU have sent us!

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - It’s Aurora season in Alaska.

Already many of you viewers have submitted some great photos of the northern lights (see below), and we here at Channel 2 can’t get enough of them!

We reached out to Donald Hampton, Research associate professor, at the UAF Geophysical institute with some questions about the northern lights.

Q: Is there a certain day or time in the next few days when it would be perfect to see the lights in the sky?

A: We just went through what is called a “high-speed stream”, which is a stream of fast solar wind that comes out of a certain formation on the sun. This started mid-day on the 27th and is starting to die down a bit now. So in the next couple of days, we might see some decent aurora from 11 p.m. to 2 or 3 a.m., but then it will likely get quiet again



Q: What are some tips or tricks people can do to get the most out of their viewing?

A: Get away from man-made lights. Unless the aurora is super-bright it is difficult to see if their eyes are not dark-adapted. Every time we see a bright light (car headlights or street light) our eyes drop out of their super-sensitive mode. The other thing is to be a little patient. It can take a while for the lights to get active, so even if things look quiet now, consider waiting 30 minutes to an hour and they may activate. Dress warmly. Even this time of the year just standing around outside one can get chilled. If you are warm you may be more willing to wait around. If it is clear, also just enjoy looking up at the stars, and remember that those are suns, just like ours, way out there in the Universe.

As for when is the best year to see the northern lights, Hampton said at the moment Alaska is at the bottom of what’s called the “solar cycle.” Hampton said researchers expect the next “solar max” to be in the 2024 or 2025 time period.

Side note: If you are out Aurora hunting and see something that sort of doesn't look like one, it might be STEVE.

STEVE's narrow ribbon of light, to the naked eye, looks strikingly similar to the aurora, However, there are distinct differences. First, its pinkish mauve color is not aurora-like. In addition, the phenomenon is often associated with “picket fence” emissions, which look like green columns of light passing through the ribbons at lower altitudes. Lastly, STEVE appears in areas farther south than auroral lights typically do.

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