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I want to see the Northern Lights in Canada this Christmas break. I will be flying to Toronto and then drive north to find a good non-light polluted spot to see them.

I have found this map but it does not really say much about the intensity of the Northern Lights (after all it should be worth it). Driving up all the way to Smooth Rock falls or even getting to Mooseonee would be an option.

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    Note that there are no roads to Moosonee; you have to fly in and out, or take a 5-hour train ride from Cochrane (which is itself a 7.5-hour drive from Toronto.) – Michael Seifert Dec 4 '18 at 3:26
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    To close-voter: this is not opinion-based. It can be answered based on the statistics of the frequency of occurrence of the northern lights and of clear skies, along with a light pollution map. Whether such data are readily available is a different question, but it is, in principle, objectively answerable. The only subjective part is what constitutes "eastern Canada". Does that include southern Nunavut? – gerrit Dec 4 '18 at 12:08
  • There are some phone apps you can use too which will give you alerts if they are in your area. I used "My Aurora Forecast & Alerts" for the iPhone. Not sure if it's available for android. When I got alerted, I went outside and presto, there they were! – TravelLikeBeaker Dec 4 '18 at 13:54
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    Moosonee is at basically the same latitude as London (UK), and Smooth Rock Falls is a couple of degrees farther south. It's very unusual to see the aurora at that sort of latitude in the UK, even from places with way less light pollution than London. Is there something different about Canada? – David Richerby Dec 4 '18 at 17:47
  • @DavidRicherby yes: the skies are dark. I've seen the lights in Algonquin Park, much further south. – Kate Gregory Dec 4 '18 at 21:48
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The map cited by the original poster @Hans Tausend (copyright 2012) is outdated, and the solar maximum mentioned is long past.

For current information on space weather see this page from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. See the forecast video about 1/3 down the page on the right. Unfortunately the forecast only goes out 24 hours.

I haven't spent much time in eastern Canada and don't have any first-hand information about whether aurora is commonly visible this month. Visibility of aurora has more to do with activity on the sun than with the season of the year (as long as it is dark enough at the time of the aurora).

  • @David Richerby is right, it must be dark. Edited accordingly. – Gerard Ashton Dec 4 '18 at 18:31
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You need three things to see the northern lights:

  • Darkness (winter rather than summer and as little light pollution as possible)
  • A location at the right latitude (in the so-called “aurora belt” - it actually moves depending on the intensity of solar activity but the point is that further north is not always better, although I have seen great displays in Svalbard)
  • Lack of cloud cover

This will maximize your chances to see the northern lights. Activity goes up and down and there are apps with short-term forecast but you cannot predict that a month in advance or find stable differences between places along the “aurora belt” so no need to agonize over which specific spot you are going to.

Perhaps a bit surprisingly, the most important factor on which your choice can have some influence is therefore the cloud cover (and not the aurora activity itself): check climate charts, avoid places on the coast, look at the weather forecast when you hit the road, etc.

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