ALPENA, Mich. — Also known as aurora borealis, the northern lights occur when space dust, solar wind, and light particles from the sun hits the earth’s magnetosphere, which is basically an invisible force field around the planet. Planetarium coordinator for the Besser Museum Johnathan Winckowski says that this shield doesn’t keep all of those materials from the sun out of the atmosphere. “It’s not 100 percent perfect though,” he said. “A little bit of it will actually swirl down the top and bottom of the planet, funneling it towards the poles of planet Earth. If you’ve ever seen one of those coin funnels before think of it kind of like that except with magnets and solar wind.”
Winckowski added that it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be able to see it from your neighborhood. However, he did say that there are locations around Alpena that will give you a better chance. “If you really want to see it, your best bet is to head north. I recommend heading some place dark, like the Headlands International Dark Sky Park right outside Mackinaw City. It’s a pretty good place to observe it. However if you don’t feel like taking that 2-hour drive, I understand if you just want to go to Rockport and check out their dark sky park.”
The peak times to witness the lights will be around midnight on March 3., but Winckowski said that there is also a chance the next day in the morning and at night.