How It Works
"When we see the Northern Lights, it's driven by a large eruption on the sun," explains Aurorasaurus founder and space scientist at NASA Dr. Elizabeth Macdonald. "And those happen more frequently, though not exclusively, during solar maximum times."
As you can imagine, solar storms and the aurora can get complicated and Macdonald cautions against oversimplifying maximum and minimum, saying, "Solar maximum is not a specific point in time. It's really like several years that the sun is more active." Likewise, the minimum isn't a day or a month, but a years-long stretch of time.
"The Northern Lights are less frequently seen during solar minimum, which we are approaching now," says Macdonald. "But, no, that doesn't mean you can't see the Northern Lights on clear dark nights at very northern latitudes like Fairbanks, Alaska and several other places at northern latitudes. You can basically see them all winter there, despite the fact that the solar cycle is at a minimum.