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Northern lights visible in Michigan: where to see aurora borealis forecast

Northern Lights Dancing in U.P. Michigan
It’s a long ride from lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula but that’s where you’re most likely to see the Northern Lights (Shutterstock)
  • A geomagnetic storm made the northern lights broadly visible late sunday and early Monday in Michigan  
  • The phenomenon is caused by solar particles mixed with the earth’s magnetic field 
  • There are various places in the Upper Peninsula where the northern lights can be readily seen, and a few in lower northern Michigan

May 10: Northern lights may be visible in Michigan Wednesday, Thursday nights

A geomagnetic storm on Friday allowed the northern lights (aurora borealis) to be seen broadly across Michigan and, in a rare occurance, as far south as Arkansas late Sunday night and into Monday morning, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration  (NOAA) reported. 

The NOAA space weather prediction center indicated Earth was impacted by a level four out of five severe geomagnetic storm, the result of a moderate solar flare erupting from the sun that ejected billions of tons of plasma. This phenomenon, also called a coronal mass ejection, traveled at nearly two million miles per hour and reached Earth in two days. 


The storm can cause widespread disruption to power grids, spacecraft and radio communications. It also is the reason why the aurora or Northern and Southern lights which are typically visible closer to the pole were seen in places closer to the equator like northern California and Virginia.


There is still time in April to catch the ethereal light show in Michigan, though it’s elusive, requiring a mix of clear skies, a dark night, keeping tabs on meteorological forecasts and a bit of luck. 

The months of April, October and November (near the spring and fall equinox) are peak viewing times; it’s when solar particles are most likely to react with the Earth’s magnetic field, producing ribbons of blue, green, pink and violet light. Here’s what else to know: 

What time to catch them 

The northern lights are most visible in the night sky so optimal hours for viewing them are after 10 p.m., according to Michigan Technological  University, with many experts suggesting waiting until after midnight. 

How to predict them  

While the northern lights happen year round, they aren’t always the easiest to spot, and even experts can’t always predict their arrival far in advance. The NOAA has a 30 minute forecast that can be used to predict the best day and time to go see them. There are other apps that can be used to predict when they will be  most visible. 


Best Places

Several places in northern Michigan attract thousands of people every year to see the northern lights. 

  1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — Munising

A wide horizon with an unobstructed view across Lake Superior makes it easier to see the northern lights. 

2. Tahquamenon Falls State Park — Paradise 

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan’s second largest state park, is another wonderful park location near Lake Superior, making the northern lights easy to spot.

3. Marquette

There are various places near Marquette including Sugarloaf Mountain and Presque Isle Park that are great places to see the northern lights. 

4. Isle Royale National Park — Keweenaw County 

This national park is one of the least visited parks but that helps make it an ideal location to see the northern lights because the night sky is very dark. 

The Upper Peninsula isn’t the only place Michigan residents can see the northern lights. Even though they aren't as common in lower Michigan there are a few places where the northern lights may still be visible. 

  1. Leelanau State Park- Leelanau County 
  2. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore- Traverse City  
  3. Port Crescent State Park- Port Austin 
  4. The Headlands International Dark Sky Park — Mackinaw City

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