The Northern Lights are like a flaky friend: Even if they’re scheduled to show up, there are no guarantees they actually will, making it a pleasant surprise when they do. Every year (well, pre-2020), people made the trek from spots around the world to some of the northernmost (accessible) areas, in the hopes of seeing aurora borealis live and in-person. This is something that takes considerable time, effort, and money.
Even if you plan your trip around an aurora forecast, or the Northern Lights’ annual peak in February and March, there’s a definite chance that you could go all that way and not end up seeing a natural light show. And that’s why—pandemic or not—having the ability to livestream the phenomenon is so convenient. Here’s how to tune in for 2021’s (at least hypothetical) displays.
How to watch the Northern Lights
We’re at the very start of peak aurora borealis visibility and also stuck at home, so it’s the perfect time to see some Northern Lights. The livestream feed is operated by Explore.org and Polar Bears International—the very same organizations based in Churchill, Manitoba that bring us the annual polar bear cam at the beginning of each November.
Not only is Churchill a yearly migration destination for polar bears looking to hunt seals in a frozen Hudson Bay, it also happens to have more than 300 nights each year when the Northern Lights theoretically make an appearance. But this is another situation where quality matters more than quantity: February and March have the clearest skies of the year, and therefore make these frigid months the best time to see the lights.
To watch, simply visit the Explore.org page with the Northern Lights cam. Though it’s live 24/7, the best times to see aurora borealis are between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. ET. To get a better idea of when to tune in, check out NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center’s forecast, which provides a 30 to 90-minute forecast of the location and intensity of the aurora.