When solar winds and Earth collide – your guide to Michigan Northern Lights viewing

Photo credit: Bryan Mitchell Photography

You don’t have to travel to Alaska or Finland to see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. You’ll see this spectacular phenomenon right here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

What creates this sky show? The graceful, shimmering swirls of greens, purples, oranges and reds occur when sun particles, riding on the solar wind, collide with Earth’s atmosphere. It’s not an every-night event, so here’s how to plan your visit.

Best time to see Northern Lights in Michigan

In the U.P. you are more likely to see the Northern Lights between August and April, with the peak months being April, October and November. Choose a clear, crisp, cold night without the threat of lake effect snow.

Best Michigan Northern Lights viewing spots

The farther north you go, the more likely you’ll see them. Go to Lake Superior, away from town lights, where its southern shore offers an unobstructed view of the horizon to the north. Northern Lights in Michigan are rarely directly overhead (although it’s awesome when they are) so you need to be able to see down near the horizon. Some of our favorite spots are near Brimley, Whitefish Point, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, Au Train, Marquette, Big Bay, Skanee, Eagle River and Copper Harbor.

Check out these resources for your Aurora Borealis forecast when planning your trip.

Aurora – 30 Minute Forecast

National Weather Service

Aurora Forecast

Info from Michigan Tech

You do not necessarily need a full-frame, just a camera with manual controls so you can adjust the ISO, exposure time and aperture settings. Set ISO between 1600-3200 with exposure lengths between 15 and 30 seconds. Pack a wide angle lens and set the aperture between f/2.8 and f/5.6.

Bring a sturdy, yet lightweight tripod (this is a must) as well as two to three fully charged batteries. Focus your lens to its infinity symbol (∞) and make slight adjustments to get a sharp focus. An intervalometer is also a wonderful tool for taking the best Northern Lights shots.

We hope we can share our incredible night sky views with you soon. Plan your U.P. trip now!