PostHeaderIcon Aurora Viewing from Seattle — Basic Tips

Aurora viewing from Seattle, basic info, tips, locations and resources.
Summary: ALWAYS LOOK NORTH, and expect it to be dim.


Forecasts for minute-to-minute updates:

The Ovation Model – a prediction: bright green, yellow or red overlapping Seattle means go outside and look.

Soft Serve News – a prediction: Kp over 5 means possible aurora for Seattle, but the higher the better. If it hits 6 go outside. 7 I go somewhere local. 8 I go somewhere dark and farther away. 9 I turn my life upside down and you should too.

Nowcast Hp30 Index – Because officially Kp is a 3-hour average I also check the “Hp30” for a similar but faster-reported index (every 30 minutes). Use the same Kp number thresholds as above with this index.

Current Activity, Estimated Kp,  – a measurement: Kp over 5 is good news. Remember the date/time along the bottom are in Universal Time so subtract 7 or 8 hours depending on daylight savings.

Advanced Solar Wind Charge/Direction – a measurement: scroll down. On the left under “Real Time Solar Wind” is a little speedometer thing labeled “Bz.” When this is pointed towards S/-50/Red we have better auroras in the Northern Hemisphere. When it is pointed the other way, the Southern Hemisphere has better aurora.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center – LOTS of info in one place.


Cloudcover prediction for tonight at 11pm:

This image should have today’s date on it. If it does not, click on the image and choose “Sky Cover, 11pm” from the table on the left.

Cloudcover information from NOAA



What: Possible aurora types: Slight greenish tinge, perhaps brighter columns or curtains in the sky, or a diffuse red glow. Do not be tricked by the normal red/yellow glow from downtown Seattle.

When: Use to convert aurora prediction times from UTC to Pacific Daylight or Standard Time.

Where: Always look North for aurorae. When clouds are predicted over Puget Sound, so I recommend viewing from Lake Kachess just past Snoqualmie Pass, or even further East. There may also be chances from Sequim or north of Everett.

How: A digital camera with a long exposure will be better at detecting the slightest glow than your eye, but once it gets bright enough you won’t need the camera anymore.


Tips (from my Twitter stream):

  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #1: Be patient, keep an eye on the data (see links below) until you see something. Then turn off the data and enjoy.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #2: Look North (usually, unless the Kp number is very large, then 🤷🏼‍♀️). Be in a dark place.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #3: Bring a digital camera or phone with a long-exposure setting. Long-exposure images gather more light than your eye with long exposures you may see the aurora first in a viewfinder or in an image, and with your eye as it brightens.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #4: It is usually hard to see from Seattle, even when visible. Give your eyes a chance to adapt. Enjoy the stars too.



When Kp levels surpass 5 it is worth starting to check in. In Seattle, we hope for Kp levels of 6 or greater for the best chance to see the aurora. I explained Kp over here.



*NEW* Recommended Viewing Locations:

My general stargazing location recommendations.

2 Responses to “Aurora Viewing from Seattle — Basic Tips”

  • mr.T says:

    Thanks for the viewing suggestions. Good spots.

    Too bad there isn’t a good/legal way to view from the lighthouse.

    — mr.T

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