Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Smear of Lights

One of the largest solar flares of the decade exploded out from the sun just last Thursday.  Tons of solar particles shot into space directly at earth, and with that speeding shower came the promise of Aurora.

Aurora!    They never fail to take my breath away.  They are one of the magical and mysterious phenomena of our world.  Solar particles get trapped in the magnetic fields around the planet, and then ionize in those high and rarified regions of the atmosphere to form glowing curtains and waves that keep deep northern and deep southern sky-watchers fascinated for long night time hours.  The resulting fire in the sky is sometimes colored lights that shimmer and stream and shift. 

Reports from this last event were promising.  Even the scientists at the south pole were excited.   Aurora australis is more rare than borealis because of the way the magnetic fields are shaped there.  By Saturday, a brilliant Aurora australis was taking its place above the horizon, holding great promise for a striking borealis in the north.

I've seen northern lights perhaps six or eight  times in my life, and the memory of them is indelible.   I once saw them as far south as the greater St. Louis region, which was my hope this time.   It's been 14 years since my last Aurora and this was a strong enough solar flare to push them into the mid latitudes. 

But alas, the city lamps and humidity were too dominant.   I looked six or eight times at various hours of the night for the past week and disappointedly saw nothing . . . nothing but a smear of high pressure sodium lights against the horizon.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Norfolk Rhapsodies
Lyles Mays, Lyle Mays

No comments: