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Understanding the Moon Phases for Chasing Aurora

Does the Moon Affect Northern Lights Viewing?

Does the Moon affect northern lights viewing? This is a common question among potential aurora viewers. How exactly does the Moon and its many phases throughout the month affect one’s ability to view the northern lights?  Your aurora viewing experience will be different depending on the time of month, but a full Moon is not necessarily a negative thing. 

Greatland Adventures aurora guides are experts at positioning guests in the optimum location for the best chance of viewing the northern lights, and the Moon can provide a stunning backdrop for shadows and wintery nighttime photography.

anchorage northern lights during Waxing Gibbous
Anchorage Northern Lights Tour during Waxing Gibbous

Below is a breakdown of the Moon’s lunar phases, what they mean, and how they may affect your aurora viewing experience:

The Moon Phases and How They Affect Aurora Viewing

New Moon

The new moon phase lasts for 10 days when the Moon is positioned directly between Earth and the Sun. Illumination of the Moon is less than 20% during this time and as such there is minimal light cast on Earth’s landscapes, making aurora and stargazing excellent when forecasts are positive for clear skies and solar storms. However, landscape photography and videography are generally more difficult during this phase due to the diminished lighting of the Moon.

Mid-Moon

A mid-moon phase is the period of the moon cycle when the Moon’s illumination is between 20-80%. During this 10-day phase, the Moon has minimal effect on aurora viewing or stargazing.

Full Moon

A full moon happens over 10 days when the Moon’s illumination is 80-100%. During this phase, the Moon lights up a night landscape and mild auroral activity will be difficult to see. However, when auroral displays are strong, a full moon phase allows our eyes to more easily perceive the true colors of the aurora, especially the greens and pinks. Additionally, landscape photography and videography are enhanced during this phase due to the extra ambient light from the Moon.

Fairbanks aurora tour during new moon
Fairbanks Northern Lights Tour during the new moon

When to Visit Alaska for Aurora Viewing

Vacations to Alaska don’t always fall on the calendar’s “perfect” time for spotting aurora, but rest assured that our local guides take into account the lunar phases and will make every effort to find the best viewing locations to maximize your aurora adventure.

Greatland Adventures offers ANCHORAGE aurora tours from August 21 – April 14.

Greenland Adventures offers FAIRBANKS aurora tours from August 28 – April 14.

Anchorage Northern Lights Tour

Duration
Full Day
Season
Winter, Spring, Fall
Departure Location
Anchorage

Journey to view and photograph the Aurora Borealis in the greater Anchorage area.

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Fairbanks Northern Lights Tour

Duration
Full Day
Season
Winter, Spring
Departure Location
Fairbanks

Join us and experience the magic of Aurora Borealis in the greater Fairbanks area.

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Matanuska Glacier Summer Tour

Duration
Full Day
Season
Summer, Fall
Departure Location
Anchorage

Explore the amazing blue glacier ice of Matanuska Glacier. We generally spend two hours and walk three miles on the ice. Includes round-trip transportation from Anchorage.

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