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A Weekend Present – Aurora Borealis

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This weekend was a very nice weekend weather-wise. Sure, it was pretty cold (near zero to low teens during the day), but the skies were clear and it was very sunny. Our animals were fighting over the sun shining in on our carpet. They both wanted to lay in it LOL.

Very early this morning (around 1am), I noticed a green glow in the sky. The Northern lights were out! We do see them often where we live, but this winter has been so snowy that cloud cover has been the “norm” at night. Not this morning. The sky was a clear as it could be and the stars were shining bright. It was a beautiful early morning because of that. The Northern lights display was the cherry on top.

For those of you who have not heard of the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis), here is a picture courtesy of AlaskaCpl.

northernlights.jpg

It’s difficult for a picture to do the Northern lights justice. I think they are something you have to see in person to really take in the full beauty. The displays that I have witnessed have been green rays of light flowing and shimmering across the sky like a curtain waving in a breeze. They are dynamic and sometimes they disappear as quickly as they appear.

Since this is the first time we have seen them in a while, we had to wake up my son. My son can be very grumpy when we wake him up, but he was excited to go outside to see the lights. Unfortunately, the brightness did die down by the time we made it outside. It was also below zero at the time, so my son was anxious to get back inside after a few minutes.

I will miss these displays tremendously if we move from the area. When it comes to nature’s beauty, we have so much. It takes my breath away sometimes.


14 Comments

  • Reply Julie Mead |

    Wow! That’s amazing, thanks for such a great shot! I thought you were in Michigan? I didn’t know you could see those from that location. I’m in Ohio, maybe I should be looking out!

  • Reply Tricia |

    Julie – I live in Northern Michigan. However, I grew up in the Southern part. I have fond memories of my dad waking me up very early in the morning to show me the lights. He worked nights, so he’d see them on his way home and wake me up when he got home. They weren’t as bright, though, as they are farther up North where I am now. The displays here are similar to what is in that photo.

  • Reply Jeremy |

    You are so lucky! I have only seen them twice in my life, and once was back in the 80s when I was really too young to care. More recently was in 2000 or 2001 during the last solar max cycle and we had a big geomagnetic storm that sent the aurora very far south.

    Seeing the northern lights in person is an almost indescribable event. It is just so amazing. Of course, I’m also a big space and science junkie, so I get excited easily.

    The good news is that we’re just pulling out of solar minimum, and solar activity (which creates the aurora) will be on the increase for the next few years and hopefully max out during 2010-2011. During this time, hopefully more people at lower latitudes will have the pleasure of seeing such a fantastic sight.

    If anyone else is interested, you should check out http://spaceweather.com/ as they have a lot of good information and put out alerts when aurora may be visible πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kyle |

    Okay, I have to assume you’re in the U.P. now. I can’t imagine being able to see them from even Traverse area. Where in SoMich did you grow up? We’re in the Grand Rapids area.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Kyle – I grew up on the Eastern side of lower MI. When I was younger (say around 15 or so years ago), we could see the Northern lights from where we lived. But it was rare. I imagine the light pollution there is worse now (from Detroit) so they probably aren’t as visible now.

    Where I am now, I can see them from my porch and I’m in “town.”

  • Reply Tricia |

    Oh, and I am in the UP. Most non-Michiganders are a little confused when I say it, so I say Northern Michigan πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Kyle |

    I second that, Jeremy–awesome site! Now that I’m in an area where I have a better chance of seeing this stuff (less light pollution), I’m going to check it daily πŸ™‚

  • Reply JW Thornhill |

    WOW!!

    I wish I could see them down here in Novi, Michigan. Being originally from Alabama I’ve never seen them here.

    Is there a place or time I could go somewhere to see them this far down in Michigan?

  • Reply Jeremy |

    JW, yes they do get as far south as Metro Detroit, just not nearly as often. The times I saw them mentioned above was while in Lansing and near Flint. To get that far south, you really have to wait for a particularly strong magnetic storm. Right now, during solar minimum (little or no sunspots on the sun) these happen very infrequently. But solar activity is picking up, and in the coming few years it should bring many opportunities to see them at your latitude.

    Just make sure to check out http://spaceweather.com for updates on when the aurora may be appearing. Another great resource is http://www.spacew.com/www/aurora.php You can see by clicking on the map that there were reports in Burton right around when Tricia saw it. And probably one of the best close to realtime resources is http://portal.cssdp.ca:8080/ssdp/static_content/ssdp/rt_oval/index.html

    On that last one, if you see the bars at the bottom in orange or yellow down below the 60 degree magnetic latitude mark, you have a good chance of seeing them, so step outside and look.

So, what do you think ?