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green northern lights in the night sky above the forest north shore

Northern Lights & Stargazing

Oh heavens! The night skies are filled with celestial phenomena –  stars, constellations, the Moon, the Milky Way, and the northern lights (aka aurora borealis). Want to see it all? The North Shore has very little light pollution, especially away from the shoreline communities, making for ideal night sky viewing.

cocoa and stockinged feet in front of fire at superior shores on lake superior with 4th night free offer

The vast night skies are another free North Shore attraction, open every night, easy to access.

North Shore Northern Lights

Seeing the northern lights is breathtaking, inspiring, awesome. Shafts of luminescent green light dance across the sky. Fans of pink glow for hours. Vibrant, pulsating white wands illuminate the night heavens. This is the aurora borealis.

And to be perfectly frank, what looks like the white glow of light pollution is also the northern lights. Less showy, but frequent because northern lights are a geomagnetic storm that occurs close to the earth’s poles. When the storm is big and the winds are right the storm can be seen here.

The bigger the storm, the bigger show. Aurora forecasts are just that, predictions. If there is a likely chance we post a notice (see northern lights forecast below). As with other storms, sometimes they pass quickly and sometimes they linger all night.

Northern Lights Viewing Tips

Look to the north sky, this generally means Lake Superior is over your right shoulder.

Get away from lights, a mere half mile inland does the trick.

The higher in elevation you are, the better your chances of seeing the lights, and getting an unobstructed view.

If you see a smear of white over the forest, you may be seeing the aurora. Watch and see if it moves.

I wish I could give you photography tips, but that eludes me. Which is lucky because then I watch and appreciate.

night sky over the mouth of the temperance river north shore mn
Stargazing and viewing tips

A more consistent evening display is the Milky Way. This massive spiraling star formation has a dense nucleus and thin surround disc. When we see the hazy band of light bending across the night sky, we are looking at the Milky Way.

Moonless nights are best for night sky viewing – we’ve listed those times below.

The Milky Way is brightest in the summer months and can be seen in the east/southeast sky. Binoculars will let you zoom in on the shimmering stars.

Northern Lights forecast

purple and green northern lights above pines on the north shore mn

Northern Lights Forecast

January 4, 2023 12:01 am - January 4, 2023 6:30 am

A strong chance of aurora!
There is a good chance to see the Aurora Borealis aka 'northern lights' tonight. Look to the night skies especially from midnight to dawn, and especially after 3am. This forecast is for everywhere north of Duluth across the entire state of Minnesota.
purple and green northern lights above pines on the north shore mn

Northern Lights Forecast

January 19, 2023 9:00 pm - January 20, 2023 11:45 pm

A strong chance of aurora!
There is a good chance to see the Aurora Borealis aka 'northern lights' tonight.  Look to the night skies anytime after dark and even into the pre-dawn hours. The closer to morning the more the auroras appear faded. This forecast is for everywhere north of Duluth across the entire state of Minnesota.

Best Times for Stargazing

big dipper night sky winter

Best Stargazing January

January 21, 2023 7:00 pm - January 21, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the winter, the dipper is at ‘3-o’clock’ with the handle hanging down.

big dipper night sky winter

Best Stargazing February

February 20, 2023 7:00 pm - February 20, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the winter, the dipper is at ‘3-o’clock’ with the handle hanging down.

big dipper night sky winter

Best Stargazing March

March 21, 2023 7:00 pm - March 21, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the winter, the dipper is at ‘3-o’clock’ with the handle hanging down.

meteor showers

Lyrids Meteor Shower

April 22, 2023 8:00 pm - April 22, 2023 11:45 pm

The Lyrid meteor shower is a medium-strength shower that's active between April 16-25 each year, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS). It will peak on the night of April 22 into the early morning of April 23, displaying about 18 meteors per hour in a clear sky. The moon will only be 9% full, so it won't interfere with your observations. The radiant of the Lyrids will be high in the northern hemisphere's sky during the near-dawn hours. The radiant will be between the constellations Lyra and Hercules. The bright star Vega is part of Lyra, so you can also look for it to get a good idea of where the radiant for the Lyrids will be. Viewers should have a good view of the meteor shower for the three days around the shower's peak, according to AMS. Astronomers think the source for all the space bits that create the Lyrid meteor shower is Comet Thatcher. The Lyrids have been viewed by different cultures for the past 2,700 years, according to NASA.

Big dipper in the northern sky in spring

Best Stargazing April

April 23, 2023 8:00 pm - April 23, 2023 10:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the spring, the dipper is at ’12-o’clock’ with the dipper facing down/handle to the right.

meteor showers

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

May 5, 2023 11:00 pm - May 6, 2023 5:00 am

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is active between Apr. 15 and May 27 and peaks on May 5-6. The maximum rate for shooting stars in a clear sky will be about 50 per hour, according to Cooke. These fast meteors travel across the sky at about 42 miles (67 kilometers) per second, according to AMS. Even though the moon is 100% illuminated at the time of the shower's peak, the Eta Aquarids are not to be missed due to the possibility of a significant outburst. According to Cooke, the potential outburst will be caused by particles ejected from Comet Halley in 390 BC and meteor rates could be over two times the norm, that's a ZHR of around 120! These chunks of space debris come from a celestial icon: Halley's Comet. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is categorized as a strong shower and is best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere or close to the equator. Folks in some northern latitudes, however, can also observe them.

Big dipper in the northern sky in spring

Best Stargazing May

May 19, 2023 8:00 pm - May 19, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the spring, the dipper is at ’12-o’clock’ with the dipper facing down/handle to the right.

big dipper night sky summer

Best Stargazing June

June 18, 2023 9:00 pm - June 18, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the summer, the dipper is at ‘9-o’clock’ and hangs dipper down.

big dipper night sky summer

Best Stargazing July

July 17, 2023 9:00 pm - July 17, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the summer, the dipper is at ‘9-o’clock’ and hangs dipper down.

meteor showers

Perseids Meteor Shower

August 11, 2023 11:00 pm - August 12, 2023 5:00 am

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most prolific showers of the year, producing rich, bright streaks.  The Perseids are active from mid-July until late August and will peak Aug. 11-12 according to the AMS. Though the full moon badly interfered with the shower in 2022, that will not be the case this year as it will be only 10% illuminated. Viewers can start observing around 11 p.m. local time when the rates of shooting start increasing and can watch the sky until dawn. The Perseid meteor shower radiant is in the constellation Perseus. This strong shower is produced by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, an icy body that takes 133 Earth years to orbit once around the sun. If there's a clear sky, the Perseids will have a meteor rate of about 100 visible "shooting stars" per hour.

big dipper night sky summer

Best Stargazing August

August 16, 2023 9:00 pm - August 16, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the summer, the dipper is at ‘9-o’clock’ and hangs dipper down.

big dipper night sky autumn

Best Stargazing September

September 14, 2023 8:00 pm - September 14, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the autumn, the dipper is at ‘6-o’clock’ with the dipper facing up/handle to the left.

meteor showers

Draconids Meteor Shower

October 8, 2023 10:00 pm - October 9, 2023 3:00 am

The Draconid meteor shower has staged some dramatic outbursts in the past but nowadays its show is far from extravagant. In recent years the Draconids have been relatively quiet, producing few meteors and no noticeable outbursts of activity. The shower is active between Oct. 6-10, peaking around Oct. 8-9. Viewing conditions are favorable this year as the moon will only be 19% illuminated. The Draconids are caused by Earth passing through debris — bits of ice and rock — left behind by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner as it hurtles through the solar system, passing Earth once every 6.6 years, according to NASA Science.

big dipper night sky autumn

Best Stargazing October

October 14, 2023 8:00 pm - October 14, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the autumn, the dipper is at ‘6-o’clock’ with the dipper facing up/handle to the left.

meteor showers

Orionids Meteor Shower

October 20, 2023 9:00 pm - October 20, 2023 11:45 pm

Like the Eta Aquarids, the Orionid meteor shower is a by-product of Halley's Comet. In 2023 the Orionids are active from Sept.26 to Nov.22 and will peak on Oct 20-21, with clear-sky rates of about 20 meteors per hour. The moon will be 37% full this year and so will not interfere with Orionid viewing opportunities as much as it did in 2021. Orionids are named for their radiant near the constellation Orion, the hunter, which is one of the easier constellations to spot with the three stars that make up its "belt." The period of activity peaks on Oct. 20 but begins on Sept. 26 and lasts until Nov. 22.

meteor showers

Taurids Meteor Shower

November 11, 2023 10:00 pm - November 12, 2023 3:00 am

The Taurid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower that occurs every November and is composed of two streams, the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids. The Taurids put on a rather modest show. At peak viewing times during the Taurid meteor shower, you may be able to see about a half-dozen shooting stars per hour. The Northern Taurids are active between Oct. 13 and Dec. 2 and peak on Nov. 11-12.

big dipper night sky autumn

Best Stargazing November

November 13, 2023 8:00 pm - November 13, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the autumn, the dipper is at ‘6-o’clock’ with the dipper facing up/handle to the left.

meteor showers

Leonids Meteor Shower

November 17, 2023 10:00 pm - November 18, 2023 3:00 am

The Leonid meteor shower offers clear-sky meteor rates of about 10 to 15 shooting stars per hour. They are active between Nov. 3 and Dec. 2 and will peak on Nov. 17-18. The Leonids are bright meteors and have a high percentage of persistent trains according to AMS. The Leonids' radiant is located in the sickle-shaped head of the constellation Leo, the lion. Leonid meteor hunting can be incredible, or a total bust. It all depends on where its parent body, Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, will be in its orbit and the kind of debris clumps that will be around when our planet passes through this comet's orbit.

big dipper night sky winter

Best Stargazing December

December 12, 2023 7:00 pm - December 12, 2023 11:45 pm

New moon nights – night when the moon is absent from the sky – make for great stargazing. Here’s a great way to start – look due north after the sun has set and find the Big Dipper constellation [see photo] with its telltale 3-star handle and 4-star dipper. In the winter, the dipper is at ‘3-o’clock’ with the handle hanging down.

meteor showers

Geminids Meteor Shower

December 13, 2023 10:00 pm - December 14, 2023 3:00 am

The Geminid meteor shower occurs between November 19 to December 24 and this year will peak on the nights of December 13 and 14.  The shower can produce 130 to 140 meteors per hour on a clear sky. 2023 will be a great year for Geminid meteor shower viewing as it peaks around the time of the new moon.. The debris that falls onto Earth's atmosphere during this meteor shower comes from the asteroid Phaethon. The meteor shower's radiant is located in the constellation Gemini, which rises around sunset.  

meteor showers

Ursids Meteor Shower

December 22, 2023 10:00 pm - December 23, 2023 3:00 am

The Ursid meteor shower is active between Dec. 17-26 and this year will peak on Dec. 22-23. The Ursids are associated with Comet 8P/Tuttle, a periodic comet that follows a 13.5-year elliptical orbit around the sun.

stargazing north shore night sky

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

January 13, 2023 2:00 am - February 17, 2023 6:00 am

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by astronomers using last March. Since then the comet has brightened and is now sweeping across the northern constellation Corona Borealis in predawn skies. It's still too dim to see without a telescope though. On a voyage through the inner Solar System comet 2022 E3 will be at perihelion, its closest to the Sun, in the new year on January 12 and at perigee, its closest to earth, on February 1. The brightness of comets is notoriously unpredictable, but by then C/2022 E3 (ZTF) could become only just visible to the eye in dark night skies.

wintry waves rolling in at bluefun bay on lake superior
wintry waves rolling in at bluefun bay on lake superior
overhead winter view of frozen clearwater lake and historic lodge on gunflint trail
sparkling wintry lake superior and ice sheets stacked on north shore

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