I hope you didn’t miss the Northern Lights

It struck me as I was standing outside in the dark a couple weekends ago that I was 50 years old before I ever saw the Northern Lights. I’m not going to wait another 50 to see them again.

Weekend before last, our planet’s sun had a series of massive solar storms. I don’t know exactly what a solar storm is, but the result was some incredible light shows all over the northern hemisphere.

The Aurora Borealis, commonly called the Northern Lights, is a phenomenon in which the night sky is painted with red, blue, green, purple and yellow hues. And it’s something I’ve searched for every time I’ve seen in the news that the Northern Lights could be visible to me wherever I am.

But for whatever reason, in the past, whenever I’ve heard that I might be able to see the Aurora, I have not been able to. Usually it’s because it’s overcast where I am, and you just can’t see the lights when there are clouds in the way.

So I was cautiously optimistic when I heard about the possibilities a couple weekends ago. I went outside, and the sky did indeed look different. There was a slight coloration to it. So I pulled out my cell phone and set the camera to a 30-second exposure. Sure enough, there were the lights. They weren’t as vivid as I’d hoped – I could only really see them with a photo – but I saw them. And now I’m on a mission to see them again, in a more vivid form.

The biggest problem with viewing it from my house is the new houses that have sprung up to the north of us. All of them have mercury vapor lights, as well as other lights on barns, driveways, back doors, and other places. It’s not as bright as a city, but it doesn’t take much light pollution to mute the Aurora this far south. To really see the Northern Lights, you need to go where there aren’t any other lights on the ground washing them out.

I’m hoping there’s another round of solar storms soon.