How to View the Northern Lights in Midwest and New England

by Amanda Glover

Have you ever been lucky enough to have gotten the chance to view the Northern Lights? If not, then Outsiders, there’s something else to add to your bucket lists. Imagine watching an array of green and silver lights stretch across the night sky. Think about the rush flooding your body as the sky becomes ablaze with stars and the horizon palpitates with a green glow. However, not all locations come with an all-access pass to view the incredible lights display.

What We’ve Learned

  • The Northern Lights are the result of a collision between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • In New England, the lights Acadia National Park is near the town of Bar Harbor.
  • The Midwest, Headlands International Dark Sky Park sits on the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

Colliding Gas Particles Are What Builds the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights might appear to be magic, but in reality, it’s all purely science. Think of this phenomenon as charged particles from the sun entering the Earth’s magnetic field thousands of miles above. After that, they rain into the planet’s upper atmosphere and light up the sky with extravagant colors.

“Whether you are lucky enough to witness them depends on a number of things, including how active the current solar cycle is,” said Mirka Zapletal, the director of education at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, New Hampshire.

60 miles above the earth, oxygen molecules produce a rainbow of colors. This most common auroral color is a pale yellowish-green. But, don’t worry, Outsiders, one does not have to risk hypothermia by climbing to the highest altitude in Sweden or Alaska to view the Northern Lights.

This year, scientists believe there is expected to be more activity. This means more charged particles make their way to the upper atmosphere by sun flares.

Witness the Northern Lights in New England and the Midwest

As mentioned earlier, Acadia National Park is a great spot if you’re hoping to view the magic of the Northern Lights. This area near the town of Bar Harbor is known for its seafood, locally-owned shops, breweries, and museums. However, it also includes the Schoodic Peninsula, and Jordan Pond—two locations to witness the phenomenon. This area is also well-known for being the top spot for stargazing. But if you’re feeling extra adventurous, making it up Cadillac Mountain also means a stunning surprise.

But if you’d rather head to Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Northern Michigan, you’re surely in for a treat. The location is already known for its starry nights, but what if you looked up only to see an array of pale green lights making their way across the sky? Lucky for these residents or visitors, the area offers free visitor programs and events at the waterfront center and in the observatory!