Why do some people observe the aurora from an aeroplane?

The difference between watching the natural polar lights on the ground compared to from the sky


Aurora arise when energetic solar wind particles interact with the atmosphere. Image credit: Kristian Pikner

Asked by Keegan Fulton

There is no real difference in what you see when viewing the aurora from the ground or a plane. However, it may be easier to see them while flying. The aurora can be tricky to view from the ground, already elusive, it is also hindered by light pollution and the weather. By flying up above the clouds, aurora chasers hope to leave some of that behind. At the height at which most large planes fly a large amount of cloud cover is bypassed. This means that the aurora can be seen even in inclement weather. The height off the ground also helps with light pollution. On board a plane you are far away from the streetlights you find down on the ground, which can make these natural light shows easier to spot.

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