Larry and I are sound asleep when we hear noises in the hallway of our hotel. Then there’s a brisk knock on our door. Sure, we had put out the “Do Disturb” sign before retiring, but we really didn’t expect that to happen.
It’s 12:45 a.m. and the Northern Lights are visible. Aurora Borealis. In October. We jump out of bed, throw on the clothes laid out for morning, and rush outside to the waiting van.
It’s Halloween, but there are no goblins tricking us. Tonight it’s all treat.
We only have to go about four blocks to find a spot with open views of the sky. Stars twinkle in the clear night air—and it’s really cold, at least for us Texans. But cold, clear weather is the right condition for seeing the Northern Lights. Thing is, that usually doesn’t happen in until January or February.
But we hit
the jackpot. A gleaming green curtain of light illuminates the sky. I’m amazed
by the spectacle. Then I turn around—and realize that the green streak reaches
from one horizon to the other. The Big Dipper sparkles just above a portion of
the emerald streak.
A natural phenomena, the Northern Lights are caused by large numbers of electrons that stream from the sun towards the Earth along a magnetic field and collide with air particles in our sky. The resulting light, most commonly green, is colored by gases in the atmosphere.
We stand in the dark for half an hour, watching the green glow as it changes subtly with the winds—fading slightly then reappearing in full force. I try to take photos, but I don’t have a tripod and my point-and-shoot camera can’t capture the brilliantly moving light against a dark background. So I just try to etch the scene on my memory and remember how lucky we are to see this remarkable sight.
Now, I’m contemplating a trip to Alaska in the winter, when such things are allowed, to view the Northern Lights through the fiberglass roof of an igloo-shaped cabin. I can only imagine how amazing such a sighting would be as I lay in my warm, cozy bed!
Photos by Larry Burmeier