Never miss the northern lights thanks to this handy tool

January 7, 2016, 12:32 p.m.
Aurora lights over waterfall in Iceland.
Photo: TonToxin/Shutterstock

The northern lights are known for two things: their astounding beauty and their notoriously short forecast time. It's really hard to know when the auroras will show and how strongly they'll shine. The beautiful photos of the lights we enjoy are based in no small part on pure luck. A photographer researches where to be, the best time to be there, then just hopes everything works out. For instance, Peter Mather spent four years waiting for the right conditions and timing to get his photo of the aurora shining over a city. But thankfully there are tools that forecast up to an hour in advance to boost your odds of seeing them.

If you're determined to see the northern lights, you'll want to take advantage of Aurora Service, a website that provides forecasts for the lights and will even send you text alerts so you can head out the door when the lights are nice and bright. With updates that give you at least a small window of time to get into place, you'll know when to head out the door and look up at the night sky for something special. The website even reviews some of the best locations to watch the light show.

You can also get forecasts from NOAA's 30 Minute Forecast website and Soft Serve News, which updates every two minutes.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.