Aurora viewing is a popular outdoor activity in northern Canada. Many northern communities are located beneath the aurora oval, a crown of geomagnetic activity around North Magnetic Pole.
In locations further south, aurora viewing opportunities arise when Earth is hit by a strong wave of solar particles, often originating from a coronal mass ejection on the Sun. During geomagnetic events the aurora oval will expand southward in all directions, delivering bright, colourful auroras to southern Canada and the northern United States.
To find out if an aurora will be visible above your community tonight, check your local or national aurora forecast. When you first discover an aurora, here are some simple tips to help you maximize the experience:
- If the aurora is moving slowly, keep watching. The intensity can change at any moment.
- Look in all directions. During periods of heightened activity, the aurora can appear anywhere in the sky, not just on the northern horizon.
- Consider taking a photograph.
- Watch for changes in colour and shape.
No special equipment is required to see an aurora, however your viewing location is important. For best results, find an area that has little or no light pollution.