Sunday, April 10, 2011

Season of the Northern Lights

Since I came here, I’ve been hunting for the northern lights, or aurora borealis. Actually, ever since I was young, as soon as I learned about such phenomenon, I had been hunting for it, not in the sky, but in nature magazines and books, which I voraciously read and collected. Seeing a real aurora seemed a remote possibility for me. It just remained a dream, the realization of which never crossed my mind.

the dream

Then I came to the northernmost part of the northern hemisphere, within the arctic circle where the northern lights perform their colorful dances. (For more information about auroras, follow this link:  wikipedia/Aurora )  So I started hunting from the moment I stepped on this “aurora field.” Night after night, month after month, and then a year.  I had never seen a single aurora at all. I even found an aurora forecast website, The Geophysical Institute, and I have been regularly following it. It turned out that March and April are the months when aurora activities are more frequent. Such activities range from quiet - low - moderate - active - extreme and to maximum, a scale of 1 to 9.

There have been days in March when aurora displays were active, but  I haven’t been fortunate to see them during those nights because bad weather or cloudy sky usually interfered, which made it impossible to see them. Then one day, on the first week of March, somebody posted in a Swedish online newspaper an aurora picture captured over Nydalasjön, the lake around here. Oh my, how come I’ve missed it!

Aurora over Nydalasjön, 
(not mine, sorry I cannot locate the photographer's name for credit)

The following evening as I went out to the laundry room, I searched the sky for possible sighting. I saw some faint green pillars moving slowly. Was I imagining? Well, there was another man out there looking at the sky. I watched closely, and yes, it was that light, though not so clear and luminous anymore, probably because I came too late, when it was about finish off its dance, which usually lasts for about an hour. I tried to photograph it, but to no avail. It was too dim.

The following night, as I was about to go to bed, I checked the sky through our window, and saw a bright pillar of green. My heart hammered forcefully as I went out, so excited to watch and take pictures.  Right outside the main entrance to our apartment, the sky above the roofs of the buildings was covered with the green lights of aurora, with the patterns constantly changing. Actually, the aurora hung low in the sky and it was directly overhead. It was too big to see its entirety, and I only viewed one part here and one part there in whatever corner I positioned myself. So I didn’t get to see the whole view, neither was I able to photograph it, just some parts of it. The perfect vantage point was in that part of the lake that I have mentioned and in the countryside. And since I didn’t have a tripod to hold my camera, which is a MUST to get a clear picture of aurora and other celestial objects, my images are not in good quality. But I’m happy that at least, I have captured a few images.

(my fragmentary images, taken with a mere compact camera without tripod)

Just a few nights ago, another big one loomed overhead, and as before, I couldn't capture the lights because they were too faint. The clearest that I took is this one with the constellation Auriga. (By the way, the brightest star here is Capella.)

The real thrill of witnessing such phenomenon, however, is the feeling of being struck by awe as I stood there, being bathed by this brilliant light that is one of the “fringes” of God’s dynamic energy which He expresses in such beauty and grandeur. 

And as I gazed at the night sky, my heart sang joyful praises to our Creator while my spirit danced in sync with the northern lights.