Northern Lights

Every night while we have been in Minnesota, Tom has checked out the Northern Lights prediction.  There is a web page you can go to, The Space Weather Prediction Center, which tells how likely it is that you can see the northern lights.  They use a five point G scale to describe the environmental disturbances of geomagnetic storms.  In order to see the northern lights there has to be some kind of geomagnetic storm.  The more severe the storm, the more intense the lights and the lower the latitude at which you can see them.  So we have been hoping for a geomagnetic storm that will allow us to see the northern lights without being so severe it knocks out power grids.

Northern Lights, also called the Aurora borealis in the north, are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere.  Auroral displays appear in many colors although pale green and pink are the most common. The pale yellowish-green that is most common is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth.  Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

A couple of nights ago a G2 geomagnetic storm was predicted, so we headed outdoors as soon as it got dark (about 10 p.m.).  The stars were magnificent.  The Milky Way was so clear we could see the spirals.  Once our eyes adjusted to the darkness, the sky looked gray with the abundance of stars.  Every constellation that can be seen in northern Minnesota was visible.  But there was still too much light in the northern sky to be able to see the northern lights – and too many trees in the way.

So we decided to drive to where we might have a better vantage point.  Our RV is on the shore of Lake Superior then we have a ridge of mountains to the north.  We decided to drive the few miles to get on the other side of the ridge.  Johnny and Val joined us on our quest.

We drove to the overlook on the top of the ridge and again were awed by the stars.  We could see the dim outline of the Susie Islands in Lake Superior.  We could see the lighthouse on Isle Royale as its beacon rotated.  We saw shooting stars.  But it was still too light in the north to see the northern lights.  And while we were standing in the driveway of the overlook a Border Patrol officer drove by, made a sudden u-turn, and turned in to ask us what we were doing!  He was very nice – just doing his job – and he left us alone after a short conversation.

The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights

Johnny suggested we drive to one more overlook on the other side of the road where there is a lake in the distance, so we would be able to see farther to the northern horizon.  We drove there and decided we might be able to see something if we turned off all the lights and let our eyes adjust again.  Once we were out of the truck, we realized that the light that had been preventing us seeing the northern lights all night was – the northern lights.  They weren’t ribbons or bright colors, but a greenish glow that had sudden, slight flares shooting up into the sky.  It didn’t look much different from twilight except that it moved while we watched.  The picture above is not my picture, but is similar to what we saw.  You can also see some awesome northern lights pictures taken in this area if you visit Travis Novitsky’s web page.

We watched God’s light show until close to midnight when it started to die down.  The flares stopped and the light gradually faded.  It wasn’t what we were expecting – it was very subtle –  but it was spectacular and we felt privileged to see another one of God’s miraculous works.

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights?  Share your story with me.