Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

Anchorage: 36°/52°/Mostly cloudy

Fairbanks: 32°/55°/Partly sunny

Juneau: 32°/54°/Cloudy

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Aurora borealis -- the northern lights of Alaska

The aurora borealis lights up the sky in a colorful display above Eagle River. The aurora is active all year but can only be seen when the Alaska night sky is dark enough -- generally from late August through early April

The aurora borealis lights up the sky in a colorful display above Eagle River. The aurora is active all year but can only be seen when the Alaska night sky is dark enough -- generally from late August through early April

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Shimmering curtains and bands brighten the wintry sky

The northern lights are just about the only thing that could get Alaskans to stand outside without a coat in January.

But there the lights are, flipping and waving through the sky in shades of green, purple and red. And there are Alaskans, calling neighbors outside for a look and putting cameras on tripods in the middle of the night.

Usually the aurora borealis appears to the north of the viewer, but occasionally it seems to be directly overhead even as far south as Anchorage, which sits just north of 61 degrees north latitude.

Many Anchorage aurora fans drive north during the winter in search of brighter and more colorful lights, sometimes ending up in Talkeetna at the foothills of the Alaska Range.

Northern lights over Fairbanks

Hotels and lodges near Fairbanks offer winter packages for travelers who want to increase their chance of seeing the aurora.

Because Fairbanks is closer to the highly active area over the arctic and because the Fairbanks' winter nights are longer than they are to the south, the light show is often much brighter and reliable over Fairbanks than over Anchorage.

Watching and forecasting the aurora

Scientists at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks study the waves of solar particles that splash against the earth's magnetic field and create the aurora. The Poker Flat Research Range outside Fairbanks has a camera pointed into the heavens to watch for auroras.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration compiles a map of the aurora's position. The map is created from information compiled by the NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite as it passes over the Arctic.

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