Monday, March 12, 2012

Grand Aurora Sighting

Courtesy of John Thain

If ever I had to choose just ONE from the hundreds of Alaska experiences as the one I had been most looking forward to, it's this.  Since we landed in the frozen tundra a year ago, I have been crossing my fingers, hoping with all my might I would behold the Aurora Borealis...or what most call the Northern Lights.

I won't get into the technicalities of how and why they show up, but in the most general terms, when charged particles hit atoms in the atmosphere, auroras show up in the sky (mostly in high latitudes...which means not only Alaska folk can see these...Canada, all them northern European countries, Russia...etc.). It doesn't happen al the time, and when it does, it is usually past Fam Och's bedtime, so we've missed a couple opportunities. Also, light pollution, cloud cover, and moonshine all affect their visibility.  So you all can understand why I was nervous about living here for four years and not seeing a single one.

I'm sure you've all heard about the big solar storm/flare events last week.  Well, because of that, aurora activity shot through the roof. This was our chance! We had initially planned to drive north from Anchorage around 10pm (kids didn't have school the next day), and watch a movie in the car while waiting for an appearance. At 9pm, my Facebook feed was blowing up about all the sightings right on base! By the time we looked outside, they were gone.  So we grabbed our coats, blankets, movie, everything but the camera (FAIL!) and drove out.

First, we parked in the Thunderbird Falls parking lot. It was super dark and not a lot of people parked there. Five minutes in, through the trees, we could spy a faint green area glow brighter and brighter. It was awesome. BUT, we figured to get a better look and drove down to Eagle River on Skyline Drive (a friend had mentioned a sighting from there not even an hour earlier).

By golly, were we glad we did! Up on that mountain, with the Anchorage Bowl and the Cook Inlet below us, the most spectacular green ribbon danced in the sky. It started out as a streak of green, which then shimmered and curled and grew. It would fade for a minute or two, reappear, and dance some more. Even Liv, who fell asleep on the way up, was wide awake, oooohing and aaaahing at the show.  Thirty minutes later, we regretfully made our way back down to base since the Mister was due to work in less than six hours. 

We are so thankful to have been blessed with this experience.  Another thing to check of my 101 (um, yeah I know I have to update that), another thing to love living here in AK.

No comments:

Post a Comment