Photo: Paranamir/Shutterstock

Don't Miss the Northern Lights Next Time With This Forecast and Alerts App

Astronomy
by Morgane Croissant May 15, 2024

Last Friday night, while a few million people were standing outside in the dark watching the northern lights dancing in the sky, I was in bed sound asleep. Somebody had told me that a solar storm was brewing and that the aurora borealis might make an appearance, but I thought it was nothing but an unfounded rumor. Where I live, a small town in Western Canada, northern lights are regularly forecasted by the local population but turn up very rarely. Obviously, this time, they showed up in a spectacular way and I missed out — big-time.

northern lights

Photo: Nataliia Korzhenevska/Shutterstock

If, like me, you need a more dependable way than hearsay to learn that the northern lights are coming to your neck of the woods, you should probably download the free My Aurora Forecast & Alerts app.

Upon setting up the app, you can enter your location and allow to be sent notifications so that when the chances of seeing the northern lights (or the southern lights) are high enough, you’ll be alerted and you can plan accordingly. What you need to keep an eye on in the app is the KP index, i.e. the level of geomagnetic activity. If it reaches six and up, you’re likely to see the aurora. Below that, not so much.

Inside the app, there’s a photo gallery where you can see some of the best and most recent aurora photography out there, as well as the short-term and long-term detailed aurora forecasts in your area. And if you want to know what your chances are of seeing auroras right now, there are three elements at your disposal:

  • The Aurora Map which is color coded so you can quickly see if the area you are in will get treated to a celestial show. Transparent and green indicate a low probability while orange and red mean that the odds are high. The map also shows the cloud cover in your area so you can gauge if the sky will be clear enough for you to see the aurora.
  • A map of the best locations in the world to see the lights.
  • A list of live webcams set up around the world, from Queenstown, New Zealand, to Kuusamo Finland, so you can keep an eye on all the auroras (borealis or australis) happening in the world.

When you’re traveling, you can change your location so you can get notified about possible aurora sightings, wherever you are. If you want to make sure to see the aurora, however, there are a few locations that are much more likely to give you that opportunity, including Denali, Alaska, and Lapland, Finland, among others.

Discover Matador