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Northern Lights 2020-2021

Southern Ontario has a few great spots to watch aurora borealis

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen
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The capital of Canada is located in Southern Ontario and therefore doesn't boast as good aurora borealis visibility as the northernmost regions of the country. However, it can be still seen here on some nights under the right conditions and at the right time. The season to chase Northern Lights in Canada usually runs between October and March. Northern Lights are caused by a so-called solar storm or high geomagnetical activity, which is measured in Kp-Index on a scale from 0 to 9. The Kp has to be at least 4 for you to be able to see even a faint glow in the Ottawa area. The forecast for aurora borealis is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and various websites specializing in geomagnetic phenomena. As you need complete darkness to be able to see the aurora, it's best to get away from the big city and light pollution. Southern Ontario features a few places that suit perfectly for an aurora hunt.

Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park, the oldest in Canada, is located in about 2.5 hours drive (149 mi or 240 km) from Ottawa. The park, which is open year-round, is one of the best spots for stargazing in Southern Ontario. It features a few beautiful lakes that can provide stunning reflections for your aurora photos. During the day, you can try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, skating, ice fishing, and winter backcountry camping throughout the park. Algonquin also offers lots of hotels and lodging options.

Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve

Torrance Barrens Night Sky Reserve is located farther away from Ottawa. The distance of 250 mi or 400 km can be covered in about 4.5 hours. However, it's definitely worth the long drive since Tarrance Barrens is the premier aurora borealis watching spot in Southern Ontario and one of six designated dark sky preserves in the province. Torrance Barrens lies in Muskoka region, away from big cities and highways, It covers 5,000 acres (2023 ha) and features lush forests, marshlands, trails, boardwalks, and many scenic outlooks for night-time photography and stargazing.

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