Dancing in the moonlight

Yesterday was Valentines Day. I fell in love. With the Northern Lights.

It was apparently the best night for northern lights of the year.  The website, www.spaceweather.com, predicts these things.  I really don’t know, but am glad for the group of people at work who do.  I got a phone call telling me the Northern Lights were as good as promised, to dress warm, and to be ready and waiting in ten minutes.  We drove out to Sylvia Grinnell Park, away from the light pollution of the city and voila, Northern Lights galore.

I’ve always enjoyed star gazing.  One of my fondest moments of my life was the first night or so back at camp after being in Rwanda with a few near and dear friends and seeing a shooting star.  Back in Ottawa, I used to insist that despite the light pollution, the stars were worth watching.  Last night may have ruined my appreciation for anything I could ever see down South.

The Northern Lights are a solar flame (so I’m told – again, I don’t really know these things).  I’ve seen them a few times since being here, but they have appeared almost white because they are so pale and they’ve been pretty small, only a few patches.  Absolutely gorgeous, but I didn’t have anything to compare it to.

Last night, the Lights danced across the sky – literally as far as we could see across the horizon.  I wanted to zoom out from where I was standing so I could take it all in at once.  They looked like swirls in caramel or chocolate ice cream, all the way across the sky.  There was pink bands along the edges a few times – but only for a few seconds.  If you blinked, they had changed.
I also learned that cameras capture the real colours more so than the naked eye.  Not my little point and shoot camera, but my friend from work has a digital SLR and is also a brilliant photographer.  These pictures are courtesy of him – one Mr. Peter Workman.  The bright vibrant green from the pictures is brighter and more vibrant than what our eyes show us.  Still, I was completely awed.
There was something about looking up at the sky that made me feel so small.  Our world is so cool and so big and mysterious and huge.  I loved it.
My Lovely Boss, who happens to be a connoisseur of the Northern Lights and an excellent photographer (I’m not sucking up – I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this.. but if you are, those things are all very true), understood when I said part of the beauty of them is that nothing is making them change.  Even though there are crazy geomagnetic storms at work, I have no idea what that means (I had to look that word up to remember what its called). Its not like when clouds or water move and you know its because of the wind.  We don’t really know what is making them change.  I’m sure someone does, but that person is definitely not me.  And I think part of the beauty comes in the fact that its a mysterious miracle that they do what they do.
Its a very worthwhile part of living in the North.  Even when I got back and my feet hurt from being so cold, I was happy to have gone.  Happy sky-watching!