The Northern Lights Could Make a Rare Appearance Over Parts of the U.S. This Week

Some of the world’s best places to see the northern lights — Iceland, Finland and Sweden — are off-limits to international travelers, which makes this week even more of a treat for aurora chasers in the northern U.S. 

Aurora borealis, a.k.a. the northern lights, could be visible across a much larger swath of the northern U.S. than usual Wednesday and Thursday. Nature’s spectacular light show may be spotted from the Pacific Northwest to New England and as far south as northern Illinois and Pennsylvania, according to the latest forecast from the Space Weather Prediction Center. 

Light pollution makes it impossible to view the lights from major cities like New York, Seattle, and Minneapolis, but head out to an area that’s dark and you might just catch a glimpse. The Space Weather Prediction Center is forecasting a surge in aurora activity and has issued what it calls storm watches for Wednesday and Thursday night. 

The northern lights are often visible over Alaska, but sightings in the continental U.S. are rare. They’re most likely to emerge in very cold, dark places, so do bundle up before you go searching for them. 

If you live further south or in the heart of a big city, try not to fret too much. The European Space Agency has created a time-lapse to show what the northern lights look like from space. 

The northern lights also are just one epic show nature is expected to provide this month. The Geminid meteor shower, which occurs each year in December, is expected to peak next week, with 50 to 120 shooting stars per hour. 

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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