Expect dim year for aurora

Forecasters predict minimal Northern Lights activity in 2010

Posted: Monday, January 04, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Aurora watchers likely will be disappointed in 2010.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File

The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks predicts that this year's aurora activity will be minimal, and much the same as it has been for more than a year.

Aurora forecaster Charles Deehr said this is the least-active period ever experienced. The decrease in activity is attributed to slow sunspot activity.

The Northern Lights occur when solar energy particles collide with the Earth's magnetic field.

Aurora activity is expected to increase as the spring equinox approaches, but the aurora appears to be in a historically slow stretch.

While Fairbanks area residents might have trouble seeing the aurora, people at better viewing locations are reporting more success. At Mt. Aurora Fairbanks Creek Lodge, owner Steve Birdsall said the right location makes a big difference. He said conditions atop Cleary Summit, where it's darker and clearer than in the Fairbanks area, are still pretty good.

Albert Marquez, owner of Planet Earth Adventures, takes visitors on statewide tours from Anchorage to Barrow each March. Marquez said he's had pretty good luck in recent years, particularly outside Fairbanks, but is paying attention to reports of quiet aurora activity.

Marquez said he's careful not to make his clients any promises he can't keep.

"We'll make every attempt to see them, but I don't guarantee anything," he said.

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