Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sunshine Daydreams

May 2010 Aurora viewed from the International Space Station

What's this? Every day lately, it seems like there's new, confounding news about our Sun. Just this morning I saw a story about the low state of the Aurora Borealis:

"The Northern Lights have petered out during the second half of this decade, becoming rarer than at any other time in more than a century, the Finnish Meteorological Institute said Tuesday."

So, the Solar Minimum has been hanging on for at least two years longer than historical observations suggest it should. Solar watchers are getting encouraged by a slight uptick in sunspot activity, and the associated auroral displays...there's a sweet photo gallery at the link as well.

Darn the luck! I've yet to see the Aurora Borealis with my own two eyes, despite being up all night every Winter these past 30 years! I remember the last time we had a big display of the Northern Lights...

I want to say it was 1997 or 1998. I woke up early, before my alarm went off. I was listening to Art Bell on the radio, and he had callers from across North America calling in relating the awesome show they were seeing.

I live in a densely wooded neighborhood, on the south facing side of a pretty good grade. Before I even got out of bed, I phoned a friend on the Westren Slope of the Sierras, woke him up, and quizzed him about what he was seeing. "Oh...My...God"...was his first response. He said: "The whole sky was red, so bright that the aurora is throwing shadows!"

"Thanks, enjoy yourself, bye!" I replied as I hung up, threw on some clothes and ran up to the street where I could barely make out a dull red tinge to the sky through the forest. It looked like the glow of a far-off forest movement, no shimmering curtains of color, no aurora overhead in the sliver of sky above my street.

A couple of hours later, I walked into the Groomer's Locker Room, and the Swingshift Crew were lit up like the skies had been earlier. They'd seen quite a show from their perch atop the Sierra Crest! There eyes were a little wider than usual at shift change, and they had a little extra spring in their step. I quipped the next morning that "I was worried that All Star Winch Pilot would trip over his tongue!" That night's Aurora Show was seen as far south as the Baja Peninsula!

These guys aren't Groomers...still, they are driving SnowCats!
I was pretty disappointed that I missed the show, but I was happy for my guys. Hurry up Sun, let's get Solar Cycle fired up! I want to see the show with my own two eyes!

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