The incredible red, green, blue and violet beams of light are especially beautiful from a panoramic view from the south shore of a lake.

Sunspot activity, solar winds, highly charged electrons and oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere along with lack of cloud cover all play together to produce a northern lights display. Prediction tools such as, and the Astro Bob column in the Duluth News Tribune can help your odds of catching a miraculous show. However, even with technologically aided predictions, sometimes patience over several nights is necessary. And if you don’t catch some northern lights, meteor showers and the Milky Way galaxy can also be quite impressive in a dark sky.

Less light pollution improves nighttime views of anything in the sky. As light pollution illuminates the night sky, light from stars, planets, and the northern lights scatter, making them difficult or impossible to see. A full moon can also diffuse the northern lights. Your best bet is to head to the darkest, most panoramic view of the horizon you can find and look to the north.

The International Dark-Sky Association recently certified Voyageurs National Park as an International Dark Sky Park. In addition to a variety of recreational opportunities year-round, Voyageurs National Park offers one of the best spots in the continental U.S. to see the northern lights due to its lack of light pollution and abundance of lakes. Water covers over a third of the park's 218,000 acres, and the park's interior is accessible only by boat (in winter, by snowmobile).

Lottery dollars, through an Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, have helped acquire a 30-acre former resort site on Crane Lake. The site will be used to build an additional entrance point to the park that will include a National Park Service Visitors Center, boat ramp, docks, beach, campground, restrooms, and educational and community space.

When you play the lottery, all Minnesotans benefit from support for our great outdoors.