The Northern Lights

The Mackinac Bridge was beautifully draped in aurora Labor Day weekend, 2016, as captured by Jason Gillman

While we watched the wonder of waving color from the Headlands shoreline Labor Day weekend 2016, Jason Gillman was two miles east, catching the aurora as it draped itself beautifully over the shoulders of the Mackinac Bridge.

The Northern Lights are a spectacular phenomenon that are hard to predict, and hard to forget! Their occurrence is tied to the activity of the Sun, and the solar wind caused by the eruption of spots on the Sun’s surface. This solar wind puts a pressure on Earth’s magnetic field, which is not uniform, and when we come ’round to the times of Equinox every Spring and Fall, it seems the most vulnerable part of our magnetic field is exposed to the pressure of solar wind, and an increase in aurora is the result!

Aurora predictions usually come only a day or two in advance of their occurrence, so please note that it is difficult to plan ahead if you are traveling from a great distance. And they are elusive, which means they can also occur without any warning! We have included here some great sites that you can research in order to help you in your hunt for aurora, and please note that we love it when you share pictures of what you’ve found in the night sky; you can email them to us at [email protected] or message them to us through the Headlands Facebook page.  Also note that aurora are usually most active after midnight, and you’ll do best if you start out by looking north.

Learn more about the Northern Lights phenomenon at the following links:

Headlands International Dark Sky Park Clear Sky Chart
“The astronomer’s forecast”
Good overall site to learn about spaceweather- you can subscribe to aurora alerts here.

NOAA NWS Space Weather Prediction Center
Lots of info on this page, just click around!

Solar Ham

Lots of graphs and details and everything explained!

Aurora Borealis Forecaster
They put out a forecast track of CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections).

Another NOAA site, has all the graphs including ACE real time solar wind for the bz component model.