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Magazine touts Alberta as one of world’s greatest aurora viewing spots

The next time you look up to view the Northern Lights, you could be joined by a group of magazine readers.

The next time you look up to view the Northern Lights, you could be joined by a group of magazine readers.

Men’s Journal recently published an article that called out the best places around the world to see the Northern Lights, and Alberta is right there on the list.

“Optimal viewing for dark skies and northern lights in the sprawling Canadian oasis of Northern Alberta is September through mid-May,” reads the article by Sunny Montefiore, who goes on to call out two of the world’s largest dark-sky preserves: Wood Buffalo and Jasper National Park.

“The Canadian rockies prove themselves among the best places to stargaze in the world.”

It touts Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival with all of its programs including the guided Jasper Skytram Star Sessions.

Although the skytram is closed for the season – reopening in March – the ample darkness that winter provides is more than enough to give anyone some great opportunities to view aurora borealis.

Professional photographer Mike Gere, owner/operator of Jasper Photo Tours, jokingly said that anywhere north is a good place for the Northern Lights.

“Seriously though, you would want to go somewhere that has dark skies and good views of the northern sky. That's what makes Jasper, Alberta a good place to view and photograph the aurora borealis.”

A dark-sky preserve is an area that has little to no light pollution and works to restrict further light pollution. It makes for excellent aurora viewing and astrophotography “when conditions are right,” as a cloudy night sky can still spoil things.

Gere said there are a number of apps, websites and groups that can help people figure out when the best conditions will present themselves.

One of his favourite groups for resources and tips is Alberta Aurora Chasers on Facebook while he suggests for the obvious reason of helping to forecast the best times for viewing aurora. It offers a simple one-to-10 activity scale and a real-time auroral oval map that will show where there are auroras in the northern hemisphere, he said.

Going one step further, Gere said that those who wish to photograph the phenomenon can do so with their mobile phones. Better results will undoubtedly be obtained by using a proper camera with a tripod or other stabilizer, however.

He offered a tip that you don’t often hear from a professional photographer.

“Remember to take the time to enjoy the northern lights with your eyes,” he said.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh

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