At saturday night a real wonder of nature kept us awake. We left the town up north to watch the northern lights (aurora borealis).
Winter is the best time to see polar or *northern lights. The region around Rouyn-Noranda is characterized as sub-auroral zone, which means that there is a chance to see the northern lights, when the weather conditions permits. They are clearly viewable on most cloudless nights during the winter month.
Since I have arrived, we frequently studied the space weather forecast for intensity and location of the aurora predicted (http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/30-minute-aurora-forecast). In addition we checked the “Aurores boréalis du Québec” facebook page for any information or forecasts. The probability of visible aurora was predicted about 60% in our region. But the sky had to be almost fully cloudless! Luckily this was the case for the weekend.
A stuck car and an unexpected twist
On friday night we went to our first “chasing the northern lights”-trip just 30 minutes north of the city. I wanted to prepare well, so I packed hot tea, crackers and warm clothes for the ultimate night-watch. We felt so adventurous and ready to see them!
We searched different spots to have a good and wide view of the sky. Unfortunately our car got stuck in the snow! I have to mention that we do have a 4-wheel drive and the last month we have never had any problems. Why this must occur at 1 o’clock in the night, during our search for northern lights? I couldn’t believe it. So, instead of having our eyes in the sky, we did some pushing workout to move the car out of the snow. Together with two other people (I just realize, how lucky we have been to meet them in the middle of nowhere during the night) we got it out.
After this frustrating interruption, we looked up to the sky for a while, but we couldn’t see any northern lights. Even not after a while, so we drove home again with a little frustration.
But we got another chance: On saturday afternoon, I checked the forecast again and the predictions were even better then the night before. But this time, we weren’t really motivated to stay really long awake and we had low expectations, after we got disappointed the night before. However we made up our minds, so we just put our coats (no tea, no crackers, no other preps this time…) and we drove north again.
And when you least expect it, the unexpected going to happen: We saw the northern lights! The night was starry and the first, though still dim northern lights appeared. Just few, almost like clouds, no green shades at the beginning. We knew the sky is active.
After a while we saw long, luminous traces of the northern lights, coloring the night sky and crossing it in green waves. We danced around the car like small childs, really happy that we can experience this. What a great show of mother nature!
We installed our camera on the roof of the car to get great pictures with 30 seconds exposure. It was getting cold really fast, because we had no special preparation package like yesterday :-S.. But this was no longer important to us.
This was one of the best things I have ever seen and whoever will get the chance to be in an auroral zone should take the opportunity and watch out for northern lights.
Dreams are coming true and for me, it happened this weekend!
*Northern lights are created by electrically charged particles of the solar wind hitting the top layers of the earth’s atmosphere, thereby inciting the air molecules to glow. This spectacle is best watched in the dark winter months in the arctic and sub-arctic latitudes.