Every year through fall and winter, the stunning lights of the Aurora Borealis can be seen in and around Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. November to April is the best time to view the Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife, but they can actually be seen throughout the year depending on weather conditions. 

One of the best places in the world to see the Aurora Borealis, Yellowknife is located near the centre of the Auroral Oval, the band around the planet’s magnetic poles that determines where the northern lights can appear. Combined with the cold, NWT temperatures and low light pollution, there’s a high chance to see the aurora borealis in Yellowknife each night at the height of northern lights season. 

What Are the Northern Lights?

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, is a geomagnetic phenomenon that takes place around the Earth’s north and south poles. Auroras occur when solar winds make contact with penetrate earth’s magnetic field, causing charged electrons and protons to collide with gases in the atmosphere that generate the colourful lights that fill the sky. Because of these magnetic forces, these particles are concentrated around the north pole and the south pole in bands known as auroral ovals. The northern auroral oval is concentrated around the Arctic, making the northern lights visible in places like the Canadian territories, Alaska, Russia, and Scandinavia. 

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Yellowknife Northern Lights: Best Time to See

The northern lights can be seen in the evening or night, the later the better. During the winter, days in Yellowknife can last as little as 5 hours before the sun begins to set due to its position within the polar circle. Because of this phenomenon, the best time to view the aurora borealis in Yellowknife is during the fall and winter. The Winter Solstice on December 21st marks the longest night of the year, and as such December is often the peak of the northern lights season. 

Yellowknife Aurora Viewing Spots

There are a number of prime Yellowknife Aurora viewing spots, but to get the best experience it’s a good idea to venture outside the bounds of the city. There are a number of aurora tour operators in Yellowknife who offer half-day, full-day, and multi-day packages to take visitors across the landscape of snow-covered backcountry and frozen lakes to the best Yellowknife Aurora Viewing Spots. 

The Aurora Village in Yellowknife is an indigenous-owned, outdoor Aurora viewing area that creates a traditional environment with heated teepees placed around a pristine private lake. The village also features a number of outdoor viewing areas and guided tours to the best spots to see the lights fill up the sky. 

It’s a good idea to stay three to four nights to maximize your chances of getting a chance to see the northern lights. Additionally, the best nights for viewing the Aurora Borealis are quite cold, so it’s important to dress appropriately. 

Yellowknife Aurora Forecast

If you want to view the Yellowknife Aurora Borealis, you can check out the conditions and likelihood of the northern lights appearing at the Astronomy North website’s Aurora Forecast. Additionally, the Northern Lighthouse Project has set up rooftop lighthouses across Yellowknife that notify locals that the conditions are right for geomagnetic phenomena like the northern lights throughout colourful beacons. 

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