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You Won’t Want to Miss the Northern Lights in 2024: Here’s Why

Ready for an adventure that will literally light up your life? The Northern Lights are a cosmically show-stopping natural wonder that have dazzled onlookers for generations. 2024 is shaping up to be one of the best years to catch the lights due to a variety of science-y factors, which we’ll be diving into in this post! Keep reading for reasons why 2024 is a top year to see the Northern Lights, the best time and place to see them and more!

Wait a Minute, What Are the Northern Lights?

We’re so glad you asked! The phenomena we know as the Northern Lights happens when the sun ejects particles from its upper atmosphere, creating a solar wind that then collides with Earth’s magnetic field— resulting in the beautiful streaks of lights we fondly refer to as “aurora borealis.” The term was coined by Italian astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei in the early 17th century, coming from the name for the Roman goddess of morning, Aurora, plus the Greek word for northerly wind, “borea.” 

Why Will the Northern Lights Be Special in 2024?

In 2024— a little over 400 years after Galileo first recorded this incredible natural light show— we can expect some of the most impressive Northern Lights in a long time. They’re expected to be even more powerful this year due to increased sunspot activity; this increased activity boosts solar wind and energy from the sun that then reaches Earth, creating an even better aurora borealis! The peak of the sun’s 11-year solar cycle, called the solar maximum, is set to occur this year. This means the lights are expected to be more frequent and intense, reaching even further across the sky!

Basically, this (already breathtaking) natural occurrence will be even more awesome than it already is! Now that you’re an expert on the “why” behind the Northern Lights, let’s talk shop about some ways you can see them for yourself.

How to Take Pictures of the Northern Lights

Whether you’re a seasoned pro with a DSLR or a casual photographer with a trusty smartphone, here are some tips to help you snap the perfect photo of the Northern Lights:

Tips for Professional Photographers

  • Gear Up: Before you head out, make sure you have everything you need to catch your dream photo. That means your camera, any additional lenses, a remote shutter release, a sturdy tripod for stabilization and anything else you may need!
  • Use Manual Mode: Switch your camera to manual mode so that you have better control over all the settings that matter, including ISO, shutter speed, aperture and more.
  • Adjust Your Aperture: Set your camera’s aperture to a low f-stop number (f/2.8 is commonly suggested for Northern Lights photography) to allow more light to enter your camera while you’re shooting.
  • Select a Low Shutter Speed: A low shutter speed (or longer exposure time) is important for adequately capturing the movement and ethereal nature of the lights. Depending on how fast the sky is moving, set your shutter speed for somewhere between 5 and 15 seconds.
  • Shoot in RAW: Switch your camera’s photo format to RAW in order to better preserve all the beautiful image data you worked so hard to capture. This will give you more flexibility when editing the photos later.

Tips for Smartphone Users

  • Download Extra Camera Apps: A smartphone may not have all the bells and whistles of a professional camera, but there are apps available that allow manual control over many of the same photography settings, including ISO, shutter speed and focus.
  • Turn Off Flash: It may be tempting to turn your flash on to make up for low-light conditions, but don’t do it! The light from the flash can interfere with the natural glow and colors of the aurora.
  • Adjust Your Phone’s Shutter Speed: If you don’t want to download any extra apps, most smartphone cameras now have a shutter speed setting that lets you manually adjust how your camera captures movement. 
  • Bring a Power Bank: Extreme temperatures can quickly drain your phone’s battery, so bring a power bank to keep it fully charged and ready to capture every magical moment.
  • Hold It Steady: A stable phone is absolutely essentially for grabbing clear, sharp photos of the Northern Lights. Bring a portable tripod for your phone, or set it up against a stable surface for long exposure photos.

When & Where to See Alaska’s Northern Lights in 2024

While these show-stopping lights have a tendency to show up whenever and wherever they want, “Aurora Season” is generally considered to be from August through April. These months have the least amount of daylight, allowing the Northern Lights to shine even brighter against dark night skies. The best time for seeing the lights is between 10pm and 2am.

When it comes to choosing where to view the aurora borealis, the further north you go, the better! We recommend Alaska for a viewing experience that still offers plenty of adventures and sights to enjoy during your trip to see the lights. Click here to learn more about the best time to see the Northern Lights on a cruise to Alaska!

Here are some of our top Alaska destinations for seeing the Northern Lights this year (and every year):

Seward (Anchorage)

During the day, long before the signature Alaskan Northern Lights come out to play, dive into the long history and exciting adventures of Seward that create the bright culture it is known for. Explore the nearby Kenai Fjords National Park, offering stunning views of glaciers and marine life. And don’t forget to stop by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see some of the local rehabilitated wildlife like eagles, bears, elk and more.


Step into Ketchikan, the gateway to the North! Stroll along the historic waterfront, immerse yourself in the flourishing art scene, and drop into local shops. Also pay a visit to the Totem Heritage Center to observe the preserved totem poles. 


Valdez is a tiny town with a big personality! With booming communities of salmon and halibut, open waterways for kayaking, and sights like Worthington Glacier, you’ll never run out of things to do that’ll keep you happily occupied during your time here.


Home to the headquarters of the American Bald Eagle Foundation, as well as a budding salmon and grizzly bear community, Haines is an animal lover’s paradise! After a day of observing the wildlife, you can indulge in a delicious meal downtown where you are sure to find a variety of dining options sure to satisfy any craving.

See Alaska’s Northern Lights in 2024 with a Carnival Cruise

Okay, so you know the what, when, where and why of this year’s Northern Lights. Now only two questions remain: who, and how? The who is easy— it’s you, of course! Seeing the aurora borealis is a bucket-list adventure for a reason; it’s an out-of-this-world experience that will absolutely dazzle your senses, and we’ll keep recommending it to people until someone tells us to stop!

We’re a little biased, but we think a cruise to Alaska is the perfect way to explore this wonder of the northern sky, all while enjoying the built-in, fun-filled experiences that a cruise vacation has to offer. We cordially invite you to kick back and let Carnival cruise take you on a summer journey through Alaska’s breathtaking landscapes, charming towns, and of course, the stunning Northern Lights with a variety of shore excursions that can’t be beat. Onboard, you can relax in your cozy cabin, indulge in delicious dining, and enjoy endless entertainment, thrills, quiet moments to yourself and so much more. Plus, seeing the Northern Lights on an Alaskan cruise is sometimes as easy as stepping outside and gazing up at the shimmering light show in the sky!

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It’s time to see this breathtaking beauty for yourself, don’t you think? Start planning your Alaskan cruise to see the Northern Lights in 2024, and remember that when it comes to fun on a Carnival Cruise, the sky’s the limit!

If you’ve decided a Carnival Cruise Line Gift Certificate is the perfect gift, we love your style! Head over to our gift card page or buy cruise tickets here.

Book your summer cruise to Alaska today and let us light up your world! ✨