Three Places To View Michigan’s Northern Lights

The Northern Lights have always been a mystical, magical wonder of the world to me. They appear, then disappear. You might see them, you might not. There is something about chasing down the enigmatic Northern Lights that makes the phenomenon so intriguing.

According to Canada’s Northern Lights Centre, the Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis in the northern hemisphere or “dawn of the north,” are the result of gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere colliding with charged particles from the sun’s atmosphere.

To have the best opportunity at seeing the Northern Lights, it’s best to go farther north and in the winter. Winter provides a longer period of daily darkness to see the lights and you will have a much better shot of seeing them, even if it means bearing down in the cold. As you travel farther north, your chance of encountering the lights will increase. This is because the Earth’s magnetic poles weaken the magnetic field around them and more of the sun’s particles enter the atmosphere there.

The more isolated an area is, the better, too. Bright lights and light pollution only hinder a possible viewing experience. In North America, it’s easiest to see the Northern Lights in Alaska and Canada’s Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut provinces but they have also been observed as far south as New Orleans, although rarely.

Seeing the Northern Lights is on my bucket list and luckily I live in Michigan where it’s possible to see the Northern Lights throughout the winter. Here are a few of the best places in Michigan to have the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

  1. Keweenaw PeninsulaThe slogan for the Keweenaw Peninsula is “Michigan’s Top of the World,” so it makes sense you could see the Northern Lights from here. Secluded with more than enough expansive coastline to see the lights, Aurora Borealis fans know there’s a good chance of seeing them here.
  1. MarquetteAlso in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette is the largest city in the U.P. but has nearly zero light pollution. Nestled along Lake Superior, Marquette has miles of public coastline that are perfect to see the Northern Lights over.
  1. Headlands International Dark Sky ParkTwo miles west of Mackinaw City, the only International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. sits along Lake Michigan. Though there are more lights in the Lower Peninsula, the Dark Sky Park somewhat cancels out that notion. Completely dark, this park is north enough to still be able to see the Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights are tricky to plan for and often unpredictable, but I wish you the best of luck as you travel Michigan trying to see them. Let us know your tips for tracking the Northern Lights in the comments below.

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Photo Credit: gerrybuckel via Flickr (feature)

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  1. I am going to be in Munising for 2 nights in mid October. Do you have suggestions on were to set up for a possible shot of the NL?

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