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Will A Full Moon Affect The Northern Lights - Moonlight Aurora

Updated on August 15, 2012

If you are wondering if moonlight or indeed a full moon has an effect on the Northern Lights then this page will give you the answers. What difference does a full moon make to the Aurora Borealis and will moonlight seriously decrease your chances of seeing the Northern Lights? Well we will try to provide a concise answer to these questions and more.

The Northern Lights are one of natures great wonders. The light display that plays out high in the Northern Hemisphere truly is the stuff of legend. People travel from all over the world to view the Aurora Borealis and the lights attracts vast amount of visitors each year. However seeing the Northern Lights is not always a given, there are lots of factors to take into consideration when searching for them. One that some people often forget is moonlight. So does a full moon play a part in obscuring the Aurora from view?

Full Moon Aurora

The Affect Of Moonlight On The Northern Lights

So if you read any tips on how to go about viewing the Northern Lights everyone will tell you that you ideally need total darkness. The guides will tell you to avoid light pollution in the form of street lights and any other man made light pollution. What they often forget to tell you though is that moonlight can also be an issue. The best time for viewing the Aurora tends to be in the winter and often when you are a long way north there is snow on the ground. Now if you have ever been out on a moonlit night when there is a lot of snow around you will no just how bright it can be. Sometimes the light reflecting back off the snow can almost make it look like daylight, so obviously this will be an issue.

So can you still see the Aurora when the moon is bright? Well the simple answer is yes. However, it will depend upon the level of activity of the Aurora. If it is a weak display then you may find that you can’t see anything, much like when the Aurora takes place during the daytime. If you get a moderate to high level of activity though you should still get a good view of the Northern Lights. In some cases when there has been a solar storm and the level of activity is very high, the moon can actually enhance the viewing and make the display look even more magical. So it all really depends on how strong a display you are witnessing.

One thing we can tell you, the lights are caused be solar particles entering our atmosphere. The moon has no effect on these particles, so the amount of activity actually happening overhead will not change when the moon is at it’s brightest. It is just the viewing of it from down on the ground that will be altered.

Northern Lights On A Dark Night

Should You Avoid A Full Moon?

So although you can still see a display when there is moonlight it is just common sense to try and plan a trip north when there is not going to be significant amounts of moonlight. Although seeing a full moon in the sky when an Aurora takes place can be impressive, chances are it will not improve the display, it will hinder it.

Often when people plan trips to go and see the Northern Lights they forget to take this into consideration. If you find yourself in this position and have booked a trip already and then discover there will indeed be a full moon, do not panic. Although you won’t get the same kind of displays that you would in total darkness, you should still be able to see something if the lights put on a display.

It’s important to remember that there are many factors to take into consideration when looking to catch a glimpse of this phenomenon. You need to think about weather, obviously you need clear skies. The most important thing is the amount of activity from the Aurora, some years there can be very little solar activity resulting in poor displays overhead. The good news is that 2012 and 2013 are predicted to be the best years for a long time when it comes to frequent high levels of Aurora’s. This is due to the eleven year solar cycle reaching it’s peak. You can actually view forecasts which predict the levels of activity a few days in advance. These can be very handy if you are planning a quick trip north.

As you can see a full moon or indeed any kind of moonlight will have an affect on the Northern Lights. However, even when the moon is at it’s brightest you can still get some amazing displays that will truly take your breathe away. If you are looking to plan a trip to see the Aurora Borealis then take into consideration the phases of the moon, but if you do find yourself having booked a trip when the moon is going to be at it’s brightest, don’t panic, you should still be able to see something if there is a good level of Aurora activity.


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