Sometimes when you look toward the northern horizon, there is a very faint green glow.
Some people – like me – can see the glow with the naked eye and others – like Mom – cannot. But don’t worry if you can’t see it, it looks nothing like the photos plastered all over the internet. Seeing lights that intense is a rare treat.
Aside from sheer luck, there are a couple ways to up your chances while chasing the northern lights. One of my favorite tools is two different apps on my smartphone.
This app is no longer available from the app store and has not been updated in months!
Aurora Alert is by far my favorite as it is the easiest to figure out and read. It also has notification settings so it can alert you to when the aurora is out. I also love the map it has built into it which makes it super easy to understand where the lights might be in relation to where you are.
When reading the numbers I only worry about the Kp. At the bottom, it says the Kp needed for aurora in your location. For North Dakota, it is 5.33, but as you can see, I got some pretty awesome photos when the Kp was lower than that. I have also gotten some pretty cool photos when the Kp was 3.00 and the lower green line was still north of my location.
Another app I have started using recently is My Aurora Forecast. This one is great for looking ahead at the long-term forecast. I have only been using it a couple weeks and the long-term forecast has been pretty accurate.
This is an example of the long-term forecast. As you can see, it goes out about 20 days. In other parts of the app it tells you the cloud cover (I have not found that to be very accurate), and the percentage probability of seeing the aurora.
All of these photos were taken in manual mode on my Nikon D3300. I had ISO set to 3200, the aperture was open all the way, and each photo was exposed for 25 seconds.
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