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veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

Columbus, OH
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veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

I know this seems crazy to come to Alaska smack in the middle of winter, but the timing will be good for us to get vacation time. We've alway wanted to see the Aurora Borealis. Is it a good time to see them, and of course, what are temps like?

Bristol, Connecticut
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1. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

Well you may see them at this time of year but it is nature and you just never know. The best thing to do is get as far away from city lights as you can and as far north as you can. I know there are places around Denali and fairbanks that do this type of trip, Chena Hot Springs comes to mind. It could be -40 or it could be +40 you just never know. Anchorage area expect temps from +15 to -10 for an average and Fairbanks/Denali will be colder. Most hotels also have a service where they call and wake you for the Northern Lights.

Manitoba, Canada
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2. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

You might find this website helplful:

…alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/TravelersGuide.htm

Columbus, OH
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3. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

Thanks for your help.

I was actually looking at Bettles in the arctic circle. They fly you in from Fairbanks and back, they advertised 1 to 3 night packages, and then we'd stay in Fairbanks the rest of the trip.

Anyone been to Bettels?

They claim they have less cloudy days than anywhere else and I'm sure it will be colder!

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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4. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

Hi there! Generally the Interior region is recommended the most frequently as we have the clearest and coldest weather. I think Jan/Feb is probably the most clear, though cloudy days can come anytime - we just have them less (less snowfall as well) as places like the Southcentral region.

However, I don't think I would go to Bettles (unless they have a guarantee of some sort for you). It's a small community - nothing really to do until the aurora appears. As well, if they get bad weather, you might be stuck out there longer than you would want to be. I think I would just stick to Fairbanks personally and hope for the best. Good luck! :)

Fairbanks, Alaska
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5. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

Bettles is like one lodge. Yea, not much to do. I also think you would have just as good a chance here in Fairbanks as Bettles.

Boise, Idaho, U.S.A.
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6. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

You can rent a car pretty reasonably at Fairbanks Airport. A standard economy rental will have all season tires, and the rental agreement will be to stay on paved roads. Be careful of hilly back roads. You could drive pretty safely on Steese Highway to get away from the Fairbanks light pollution. Some safe places to park would include the Alyeska Pipeline viewpoint, the weigh station at Fox, or a turnoff past Fox on the Steese. Be careful about the parking lot at the Howling Dog Saloon--it's surprisingly slippery. The parking lot by the Fox General Store isn't bad.

Temperatures can be serious sub-zero, so be prepared.

If Fairbanks has ice fog, driving a little way up the Steese can probably put you above it. Driving up the little hill to the UAF Museum of the North may be enough to get above the fog.

Boise, Idaho, U.S.A.
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7. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

Some other possibly useful advice:

If you wear glasses, anti-fog can be helpful. If the glasses are anti-reflection coated, anti-fog won't help.

For photography you should bring a tripod. That's obvious for aurora pictures, but with a short day and a lot of twilight, you'll be using it a lot for scenics. Although you don't want to carry something very heavy, too light and flimsy can be a struggle to use. I found the Slik Sprint Pro to be very good. A quick release plate is recommended, as it is less fumbly with gloved hands. You want to avoid working bare-handed in the subzero. More than a few seconds of that, and you will suffer badly. Glove liners can help. Two layers can give you a reasonable compromise between protection and dexterity. Using pencils to push buttons can work.

In the subzero batteries can become too cold and lose power. I found a padded case with room for some chemical heat packs worked. Carry some cotton handkerchiefs in the pocket of your parka for wiping off snow and condensation.

Aurora pictures with a small sensor digital camera probably won't be great, but can still be interesting. At long exposures small sensors get very noisy, and turning the ISO above 400 will only make it worse. A DSLR with its larger sensor will give better results.

With a point-and-shoot you could probably get some kind of picture with night scene or fireworks mode. With a manually controlled camera choose maximum aperture and exposure (usually 15 seconds), ISO 400. You may need to set manual focus to infinity. I recommend choosing the daylight white balance pre-set for best color. Even if your picture is rather grainy it can be interesting. One thing you will probably notice is that the camera captures the color better than your eyes.

Columbus, OH
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8. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

Thanks everyone for all your helpful advice. We decided to forgo Bettles and stay in Fairbanks.

I'm sure I'll have more questions before we make the trip.

Thanks

9. Re: veiwing the Aurora late Dec.

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