The Sky is Bright – Raven Oak

The Sky is Bright

Last week, our pale blue dot was hit by one hell of a solar storm the size of which we haven’t seen in something like two hundred years. Due to this, people all over the world had the rare opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis, something that’s usually only visible in certain northern areas of the world.

I’ve always wanted to see them. So much so that I’m a member of the Aurora Borealis Washington State group over on Facebook and I follow several NOAA groups and weather chasers to keep up on sightings, chances to see it, etc.

I’ve always been a weather nut.

I grew up all over and as such, I’ve been through major hurricanes, I’ve had tornados hit my house and school, and I’ve been through my fair share of floods and earthquakes as well. I can’t help but be fascinated by the power of Earth’s weather and how objects in space impact it.

So Friday night, I made plans to see the Aurora Borealis. Because it was visible to the naked eye from my front porch, despite massive light pollution, I knew the roads would be chaos as people drove to the mountains to see it better. Between that and being sick, I made due with our neighborhood.

Picture of the aurora borealis from our street, which shows up as a dance of purples, blues, and greens in the sky.

If you look at the bottom of the photo, you can see the street lights in this shot. Despite light pollution, it was quite show! This photo is unprocessed, meaning I didn’t run any filters or color corrections on it. Gorgeous!

One thing to keep in mind is that the Aurora, while visible to the naked eye, is rarely as bright as this and even when it is, you usually have to look through a camera lens to see the spectacular colors. With just my eyes, I could see wispy gray streaks with hints of purple and green in it. Open up the camera’s lens so that it stays open longer and then you see the actual colors of the phenomenon.

Why Is That?

Our eyes are pretty cool, but they aren’t perfect when it comes to color. Our cones see color, but need light to see it, whereas our rods are great for low light levels, but they can’t see color. As one scientist explained it, it’s why the bathroom looks washed out and gray when you stumble into it in the middle of the night. Cameras don’t have this problem! They can take in the actual colors and use low light to do it (by leaving the lens open longer). So yes, these colors are accurate even if we can’t see them.

Those folks who drove out into the mountains where there is less or no light pollution, saw even brighter colors. It’s been awesome seeing social media flooded with everyone’s photos.

Picture of the aurora borealis from our street, which shows up as a dance of purples, blues, and greens in the sky.

At one point, we could see the streaks of the Aurora in the sky. Sometimes they almost looked like a phoenix or some sort of dimensional rift. Before we understood the science of these, I can grok how people saw this and created tales about creatures and beings from other places and times coming through to our own.

The very essence of science fiction is rooted in attempting to explain that which we didn’t understand.

It’s what I love most about it. <3

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