August 18th, 2003


hold me with wings of green fire

We were in the middle of a scrabble game when the message came through: aurora borealis, level 2 alert. You know you have the right sort of friends when you all decide at midnight on a Sunday to pile into a car and rush North, away from the curdled sprawl of Seattle's light pollution, to go see it. We drove to Snohomish and parked at an Assembly of God church, spilled out of the car expectantly and peered at the Northern horizon.

Along the horizon, a low band of green haze, milk-pale behind a jagged horizon of trees. A city on the other side of some hills, perhaps, or headlights caught in a bank of fog. Either way, too much light pollution for us to see the aurora. Helluva a disappointment.

And then the universe took a breath.

The haze rippled, became a curtain of falling fire stirred by a ghostly hand, bent and folded on itself, eddied upwards in trailing cascades of green fire. Somehow in all the pictures I'd seen, all I'd read, I'd expected it to be stately and slow, to drift and roll like an ocean mist. Not to snap and whirl and fold and dance, to arch like a lover into the solar wind, to leap like sparks in a fireplace and fall like snow in moonlight. But it was fast and it was achingly beautiful.

In a few days, you'll undoubtedly be treated to my ranting about photos that show nothing but an uninteresting green haze. :)
  • Current Mood
    jubilant jubilant

Aurora backstory, or How You Can Play Along At Home

A lot of people seem interested in the aurora, so I figured I'd make a how-to-get-in-on-the-action post. For those in the Northwest, there is an automated aurora detector in Walla Walla and you can subscribe to an email list here and have it forward to a cell phone or pager if you've got one so equipped.

For those of you elsewhere, there is a paid phone alert, which I don't really know much about beyond its existence.

For everyone in Northern latitudes, the earth is going to move through a stream ejected through a hole in the sun's corona on the 20th and 21st, which is likely to produce a good aurora.

Seattlites: We're going to try to be on the other side of the mountains for it. Wanna join us? :)
  • Current Music
    Heather Alexander - Smoke Filled Pictures