Northern Lights are viewable most clear winter nights from Fort McMurray

Photo by Bill Martin / courtesy Fort McMurray Tourism

Photo by Bill Martin / courtesy Fort McMurray Tourism

Fort McMurray, Alberta – The mysterious Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights have fascinated man throughout history. Early cultures thought they were spirits. As I watched, Mother Nature’s incredible show started with a dim arch of light suspended above the horizon, which slowly gained intensity and height, eventually rippling into light green transparent folds covering the northern sky like a wind-blown curtain. Small shoots of red light lapped the bottom hem like little flames. My viewing was over in 20 minutes, but the memory will last a lifetime. The lights are caused by a solar wind of electrons and protons, that comes from the sun collides with gases in the upper atmosphere. Colors can range from green to blood red.

Because Fort McMurray is located on the 56th parallel (within what is known as the auroral band) this spectacular light phenomena can be seen from Fort McMurray on many cold, clear nights between October and March. The lights can appear at other times of the year, but the long daylight hours make viewing more limited.

Fort McMurray is a 4.5 hour drive from Edmonton, Alberta. You can travel 280 km on to Fort Chipewyan during summer by air or river, during winter a challenging frozen road is created.


Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo region, Alberta


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