Peter Samuels / March 8, 2019

Northern Lights Prediction: Knowing When the Aurora Appears

northern lights prediction

Strangely enough, the Northern Lights Prediction is hard to explain since so many processes need to happen in order to see the amazing lights.

This guide will help you know how to detect the Auroras.

The Solar Cycle

Every 11 years or so, the Sun starts another solar cycle. In the middle of the cycle, you can expect the most sunspots visible on the surface of the Sun, which means more Aurora activity during those years. As you can see in the following table, we have just passed the middle of the cycle which will be over by 2020.

Sun Solar Cycle Chart
Sun Solar Cycle Chart

Even though the best time to see the Northern Lights in this decade has passed, they still can be seen. The best time to observe them can be determined by the amount and size of sunspots on the Sun – the more and bigger they are, the more intense the Northern Lights would be.

How is the northern lights prediction aided by the sunspot?

The images below show the amount of spots on the sun currently.

Recognising the spots is helpful for the northern lights prediction. The Sun rotates around its axis once every 27-28 days as seen from the Earth. Because of this rotation, sunspots, are like a massive firehose releasing energy into space. This can be lasting for several months in a row.

If you have observed an active Aurora night, in 27-28 days you would probably be able to see the lights again. If that same sunspot is still active, it would have rotated around with the Sun. It would be in geo-effective position again – facing the Earth, and spreading the Lights.


SOHO EIT 195 Latest Image
SOHO EIT 195 – Updated Sun View
SOHO EIT 284 Latest Image
SOHO EIT 284 – Updated Sun View
Sun spots are visible if you block the sun
Blocked Sun – Updated View

What Time of the Night?

No doubt, the peak hours are between 11pm and 2am, however, anytime it’s dark enough, there is hope.

What Months of The Year?

Actually, the Aurora Borealis season in northern polar latitudes (Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Siberia) runs from August-thru-April. In this period the nights are actually dark, unlike the rest of the year. During the summer months of May, June and July,  Auroras can be spotted only south of 50° latitude.

The equinox months of September and March are best for Aurora activity. Also, winter months of October-thru-February can also be good.

Cool Northern Lights?

Contrary to the most common belief of people, when talking about the northern lights prediction, it is not necessary to be cold to see the Aurora. What really matters is the place to be dark, clear and in the northern part of the globe.

Map of areas you can see the northern light
Map of areas you can see the northern light

Furthermore, if you are interested in the northern lights prediction and you feel like predicting or want to predict your chance of seeing the Northern Lights,  you can use this table to read correctly the SPACE WEATHER PREDICTION CENTER report.

If the ap is over 35, and the kp is over 4, there is a chance to see the magical lights. The higher the numbers are, the better the chance to see them is. The highest ap is 400, and kp – 9.

27-day Space Weather Outlook Table
Quiet: 0 ≤ Ap < 10 usually no Kp indices > 2  
Unsettled: 10 ≤ Ap < 20 usually no Kp indices > 3  
Active: 20 ≤ Ap < 35 a few Kp indices of 4 
Minor Storm: 35 ≤ Ap < 60 Kp indices mostly 4 and 5 
Moderate Storm: 60 ≤ Ap < 100 some Kp indices of 6 
Strong Storm: 100 ≤ Ap < 160 some Kp indices of 7 
Severe Storm: 160 ≤ Ap < 310 some Kp indices of 8 and 9
Extreme Storm: 310 ≤ Ap some Kp indices of 9

Current Storm Status:           Current Storm Status

Current Solar X-ray Status: Solar X Ray Status

When the statuses above are green there is no possibility of seeing the Lights. In case they are yellow, there is some chance. The best is when they are red – it’s celebration time!

Want to check if the sky are clear tonight?

US Satellite Animation Map

Western Europe Satellite Animation Map

Read our next article here about: Dancing northern lights (aurora borealis) 

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