Canada’s Northwest Territories is known as one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. The fall season has ended but now is the time to get ready to head north this upcoming winter to experience firsthand the magic of the Aurora winter season.
A geomagnetic storm in September saw a high-speed solar wind stream spark a G2 storm that triggered an incredible display across Canada and the northern United States for hours. While several areas got to experience what Northerners in the NWT see most nights, it was especially spectacular in the Northwest Territories where the show continued for days.
“The Northwest Territories offer on average 240 nights of Aurora-viewing opportunities a year thanks to crystal-clear nights, ultra-low humidity, and a perfect location directly beneath the ‘Auroral oval’ — the ring around the Earth’s geomagnetic North Pole,” explains Frank Florian, Senior Manager, Planetarium and Space Sciences at the Telus World of Science, Edmonton.
According to Astronomy North, a non-profit organization dedicated to northern sky education and outreach, there have been consistently elevated Aurora activity levels every September and March – something that has been consistently observed and studied for over a century.
“Activity has been heating up on the Sun lately, and some of that activity has been Earth-directed which is great news for skywatchers and Aurora photographers in the Northwest Territories,” explains Astronomy North president, James Pugsley.
“Last month we observed multiple G1 and G2 geomagnetic storms, resulting in some significant long-duration Auroral events across the North.”
Further cementing the Northwest Territories as home of the world’s best aurora borealis, this recent plethora of Auroral events has tour operators gearing up for a busy winter season.
“Our tourism operators are more excited than ever to host visitors from around the world underneath our incredible Northern Lights,” says Donna Lee Demarcke, Chief Executive Officer for Northwest Territories Tourism.
“While the Aurora in the Northwest Territories are a huge draw for tourists and residents alike, they are just one of the many exciting experiences our territory is proud to be able to share with the world.”
Three Reasons Canada’s North West Territories Have The World’s Best Northern Lights
The Auroral Oval
The Northwest Territories are located directly under the Auroral Oval — a concentrated area for the most intense Northern Lights activity anywhere on Earth. This means on average, the NWT experiences 240 nights of the aurora borealis in a year, concentrated around peak seasons in the fall and winter.
Crystal Clear Skies
Low humidity means very little cloud cover, so the wide horizons of the north are open and clear for the Aurora to come out and amaze you with how they fill the sky.
The Perfect Backdrop
At the height of summer, the skies in the NWT are bright with the light of the midnight sun. In contrast, winter brings long nights of darkness, which makes the perfect backdrop for the northern lights to shine brighter and completely envelop the heavens. Away from big city lights, even the faintest wisps of Aurora become easily visible. What starts as a hint of green or blue can quickly explode into dancing ribbons of vibrant northern lights, rising and falling, building and fading — a mesmerizing performance against the night.
Tip: There are two Aurora seasons in the Northwest Territories: Fall (late summer) Aurora from mid-August till the end of September, and Winter Aurora from mid-November all the way until early April. During these times, the sky is clear, the nights are dark, and the Northern Lights are spectacularly powerful — sometimes filling the sky from horizon to horizon.