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7 Reasons Why the NWT has the World's Best Aurora

A person walking on a trail in the snow under the Northern Lights

7 Reasons Why the NWT has the World's Best Aurora

The Aurora flares up when charged particles from the the sun interact with the Earth's outer atmosphere. The colours of the Aurora vary based on what layer of the atmosphere is being "excited." The most common colour is an eerie green glow. Those Aurora are caused by the excitement of oxygen atoms about 120 kilometres above the Earth's surface.

Being the home of the best Northern Lights in the world is a pretty big claim, but we’ve got the facts to prove it. Here are the 7 reasons why the NWT has the world’s best Aurora.

The Northern Lights above Aurora Village's teepee accommodations outside of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

In the central Northwest Territories, the Aurora is visible for an average of 240 nights per year. That's nearly every single night of the late summer and autumn, which we refer to as the Fall Aurora season, and then again in winter and early spring for the Winter Aurora season.

Why is it so frequent here? Because the Northwest Territories enjoys crystal-clear skies, ultra-low humidity, and its perfect location beneath the band of maximal Auroral activity – what astronomers call the "Auroral oval."

The magic and wonder of the Northern Lights in Canada's Northwest Territories

It’s Canada's wildest lightshow.

Late at night. Far from town. Up at the top of the world. Up in the canvas of the sky. The heavens burst into colour with the most spectacular Northern Lights on Earth, and do a glorious dance.

Purple aurora are less common than green, but still quite a regular sight above Canada's Northwest Territories

Sometimes, the Aurora blazes bright violet or crimson. This occurs during Auroral "storms," when charged solar particles penetrate closer to Earth, exciting molecular nitrogen at altitudes as low as 80 kilometres overhead.

The dance of the Northern Lights above Pine Lane near Fort Smith and Wood Buffalo National Park.

These Auroral storms are intense. During especially vivid lightshows, scientists have measured the energy in the Aurora to be as much as 20 million amperes at 50,000 volts. By comparison, home circuit breakers are typically tripped by currents over 15-30 amperes at 120 volts.

The winds of the cosmos on display with the dance of the Northern Lights above Canada's Northwest Territories

Auroral storms happen when the sun ejects charged particles in a blast of "solar wind." These winds hurtle toward Earth at up to 3 million kilometres per hour, bombarding our magnetosphere and sending the Northern Lights into a frenzied dance.

Cosmic storms show in the Northern Lights above Canada's Northwest Territories.

These blasts of solar wind hit the Earth about 1,500 times per year – several times per day, on average. The bigger the blast, the more vivid the Aurora.

The best aurora colours of green and blue dance in the sky above a lake in the NWT

For as long as humans have craned their necks to watch the Aurora, they’ve also bent their ears to hear them. Lots of people swear the lights hiss and crackle. For a long time, researchers said they were imagining things. Scientifically speaking, the “noisy Aurora” theory seems mad. After all, the lightshow happens in the soundless void of space. But a few years ago, scientists recorded unamplified sounds including crackles, muffled bangs and distant sputters. Scientists cannot explain this yet - which adds to the the remarkably magical experience of viewing the Aurora from the best vantage point on earth.  

Inspired by the magic of the Aurora? Learn more about the best seasons to visit, the cultural importance of the Aurora, and available Northern Lights hunting tours. There is always another unforgettable experience to have under the best Northern Lights in the world.

Excited to see a true winter wonderland? Read more about what Northerners look forward to every winter and the ways you can keep busy (and warm!) on your authentic Northern experience.

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