Northern Lights!!Posted: November 1, 2011
One of the things on our Alaskan bucket list was to see the northern lights. During our first few weeks, we saw them once, faintly. And we decided to wait deeper into the season before we tried again in earnest. The colder and darker it gets here, the better the lights are. I have been trying to be patient, which is hard when the place we just moved from (Marquette, MI) gets a spectacular display that was so good it ended up on the National Geographic website. I was seriously jealous. I moved to Alaska, home of the northern lights in the USA, and I had yet to see a take-your-breath-away sky of lights. But, we were determined to make it happen in our last eight weeks (hard to believe that is all the time we have left in Alaska!).
So this weekend we were on the hunt again. We went out three nights in a row. Temperatures here have really dipped, with the highs in the teens and the lows well below zero, so we bundled up, packed a camera, and drove to Chena Lakes Recreation Area (the best place to view the lights near North Pole). The first night, the stars were beautiful. The big dipper is always easy to spot, and the sky is so clear here you can see the band of stars that make up the Milky Way. But no northern lights. The second night it was cloudy. Major bummer. But last night, Halloween, we got our first good look at Alaskan Northern Lights!
Our lights were green, and arched across the sky like an extra wide rainbow. What surprised me was how often they shift, move, brighten, and disappear. The lights are constantly in motion. Our view was always changing. When we first arrived, they were concentrated at the base, just above the tree line, fanning out into thick waves. Later, during my favorite shift of the evening, one streak brightened Kermit-the-Frog-green, and buckled in rolling waves across the sky (see picture above). It looked a little like florescent paint drawn in a squiggle line. We watched the lights for about 45 minutes. Half the time in the car (still running) and half out. It was too cold to stay out the whole time so we would jump out, look at the stars and the lights, take pictures, then get back in the car to warm up. I could have stayed all night. But, unfortunately, Lucas had to be at work early this morning, so we had to pack up and come home. To our surprise, the lights were so vivid last night, even when we got home we could see them from our front yard. The last view before we went inside was like seeing a green genie coming out of a bottle, a puff of swirling smoke. I am now impressed. And I can’t wait to see them again.
*Lucas is hard at work figuring out how to best capture the lights with his camera. Hopefully, we will have more pictures soon as we continue to chase the lights this winter!