Both NASA and the Goddard Space Centre have announced that the Sun’s polarity has finally flipped. Don’t worry; it sounds dramatic, but this is a natural, recurring phenomenon and totally harmless! The flip in polarity heralds the peak of Solar Cycle 24 and signifies the mid-point in this particular Solar Maximum (the period when the Northern Lights are historically at their most frequent and spectacular).
Basically, what the experts are saying is that half of the Solar Maximum is behind us but the other half, very possibly the better half, still lies ahead.
Two of the NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel’s leading panellists believe that the current solar cycle will start to decline in 2015, but note that their own research suggests that major solar flares and noteworthy geomagnetic activity normally occur as a solar cycle declines.
The midnight sun in Scandinavia means that the Northern Lights won’t be visible until late August and early September. So when is the best time to go?
If you are keen to avoid the cold, then autumn is a tantalising proposition. You’ll be travelling as close to the Solar Maximum as possible so, statistically, there should be an excellent chance of seeing the Aurora. The solar cycle will begin to decline, but NOAA/NASA’s analysis of past cycles suggests that this is often when the greatest solar activity occurs.
The coming Autumn/Winter of 2014/2015 could represent the best opportunity to see the Lights until the peak of Solar Cycle 25, which will occur in approximately 11 years’ time.
Are you really prepared to wait that long to tick off this key bucket-list dream?
Snow angels – credit Antti Pietikainen