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See Michigan Northern Lights Tonight! Aurora Borealis Forecast | When and Where to See the Best Northern Lights in Michigan

Michigan Northern Lights | By Sherry Trautman | Travel-Mi.com | Updated: August 17, 2022

When and where can I see the Northern Lights AKA (Aurora Borealis) in Michigan?

The question everyone always asks is there a Northern Lights or an Aurora Borealis Forecast, and can you see the northern lights Michigan tonight? 

Hopefully we can help you see the light tonight ;)

"The earth has music for those who listen" 

~William Shakespeare

First - What are the Northern Nights (Aurora Borealis)?

The Aurora Borealis (“Northern Lights”) are brilliantly colorful night-time lights that are located above the Earth’s magnetic poles in the northern and southern hemispheres. 



Warning Science Stuff!

Since I'm not a scientist, let's refer to the Space Weather Prediction Center for more information.

They say, "the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) are the result of electrons colliding with Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The electrons are energized through acceleration processes in the downwind tail (night side) of the magnetosphere and at lower altitudes along auroral field lines.

The accelerated electrons follow the magnetic field of Earth down to the Polar Regions where they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere.


Best Times To See:

  • Late in the evening, near midnight, the arcs often begin to twist and sway, just as if a wind were blowing on the curtains of light. At some point, the arcs may expand to fill the sky, moving very quickly and bright. This is the peak of what is called an auroral sub storm.
  • Then in the early morning the auroral forms can take on a more cloud-like appearance. These diffuse patches often blink on and off repeatedly for hours, then they disappear as the sun rises in the east.


Best Place to Observe:

The aurora appears under an oval shaped region between the north and south latitudes of about 60 and 75 degrees.

At these polar latitudes, the aurora can be observed more than half of the nights of a given year."



Northern Lights Viewing Ideas

Michigan Northern Lights Forecast-Aurora Borealis 30 Minute Forecast Tool for Michigan

30 Minute Forecast Tool (NOAA)

*Don't forget to click on the Northern Hemisphere "PLAY" Button on the lower left corner for animation once you get there!* 

(Button will open a new window)

Click the button to be taken to NOAA's Forecasting Tool to see if you have a chance of viewing the northern lights in Michigan tonight. The Ovation Aurora Forecast tool is part of the Space Weather Prediction Center.




The 30 minute northern lights forecast page shows when residents in Michigan can see the lights.  It's kind of a northern lights tracker tool and a great resource to determine your probability of seeing the Aurora borealis northern lights in your location.

We use it to increase our chances of seeing the northern lights on any given night.

This is a short-term forecast of the location and intensity of the aurora.  It provides a 30 to 90 minute forecast of the location and intensity of the aurora. 

You can check this to see the up to date Northern Lights Michigan forecast and your chance of seeing the northern lights tonight.  

The two maps on the northern lights map show the North and South poles of Earth respectively. The brightness and location of the aurora is typically shown as a green oval centered on Earth’s magnetic pole. 

The green ovals turn red when the aurora is forecasted to be more intense.  The sunlit side of Earth is indicated by the lighter blue of the ocean and the lighter color of the continents.

Also grab their Northern Lights 3 Day Forecast



Northern Lights Michigan Observation Map

So, Michigan is generally in the G=1, Kp=5 zone (kp3 is low, kp 9 is very high) so we are right in the middle for magnetic energy (the Upper Peninsula is even better).

When is the Best Time to see the Northern Lights in Michigan?

The best time to see the Michigan northern lights is when geomagnetic activity is low, the aurora typically is located, in the hours around midnight, at about 67 degrees magnetic latitude. 

Geomagnetic Latitudes: Northwest Research Associates Space Weather Services GraphGeomagnetic Latitudes: Northwest Research Associates Space Weather Services Graph

The cool thing is, Michigan (or the UP) is around 57 Geomagnetic Latitude!

The night must also be clear and free of light pollution to see the Michigan aurora borealis.


What Season and Times Can You See the Northern Lights in Michigan?

What is the best time to see northern light in Michigan?

Best time of year: August through April—October, November, and April being peak months. 

Watch the forecasts after 10 p.m. for the best probability of seeing the Northern Lights.



Best Way and Places to See Michigan Northern Lights

Wondering where can you see the Northern Lights in Michigan tonight?

In general, you are more likely to see an aurora if you are at a higher latitude, i.e. closer to the north (or south) poles.

  • No light pollution
  • No full moon (the darker the better)

Since light pollution can seriously limit your visibility, we recommend visiting Dark Sky Parks

The Headlands International Dark Sky Park located in Mackinaw City near the Mackinac Bridge is our absolute favorite place to view Michigan Northern Lights.



Where to See Michigan's Northern Lights in the Upper Peninsula

Where is the best place in Michigan to see the northern lights?

Since Michigan's Upper Peninsula offers more open sky and less light pollution, it is the perfect spot for aurora sighting.

Remember...find the the darkest spot you can.

Chris (the traveling hubby) highly recommends Houghton or nearby areas in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, as this is where he grew up and has seen several spectacular Aurora Borealis lights in this region.

Check out McLain State Park or Breakers Beach in Houghton.

  • Copper Harbor's Brockway Mountain
  • Whitefish Point
  • Pictured Rocks
  • Almost anywhere along Lake Superior
  • Bete Grise Beach, east of Lac La Belle (awesome for stone hunting too!)

If you are searching for the northern lights forecast Marquette Michigan or the northern lights forecast Houghton, just remember to use the Northern Lights 3 Day Forecast.

It's your best chance of seeing northern lights tonight. 



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