A random collision at over a million degrees Celsius, shattered two simple atoms into sub-atomic particles. The resulting explosion, combined with the star’s wandering weak magnetic spots ejected them from the corona at 2.5 million km/hr. From there, they joined the centillions of others, escaping the star’s gravitational field. Almost all the particles would race away to unknown fates in the mind numbing depths of space. But some … were heading straight for Earth. Three days later, most were deflected by Earth’s magnetic field. But some slipped around into our atmosphere near the poles, and began inter-acting with atoms in the air. Fortunately when they did, it was night-time on our side of the planet.
Since we had house-guests and had recently completed a wondrous meal, I was using the en suite bathroom upstairs. I’ve learned that if you’re an old guy and you want guests to come back … use a separate bathroom while they’re visiting. I’m not just talking about gentility here folks. Seriously. So anyway, I’m walking past the balcony door when I see what appear to be flames licking the sky off to the West. I flung the balcony door open and stepped out. Even through the leaves of our massive silver maple I could see the glowing red sky. It took a few seconds for it to dawn on me. I’d heard of deep red auroras, but had never seen one, not like that anyway. I was more familiar with the usual pale green, undefined glowing blotches in the sky. The “curtains blowing in the wind” effect was a treat for me at that time. Even then, that was hundreds of miles to the North, on an island, in the middle of a deserted lake, with no habitations within a day’s travel. But there I was, standing on the balcony off of my bedroom, in my house in Southern Ontario watching the best display I’d ever seen.
Originally, I’d written a piece that explained the technical stuff behind the Aurora Borealis, but the wife (our final editor) said it didn’t answer the expectations of this blog, too dry and technical. That’s a shame because there have been some remarkable new findings, which are, well kinda technical but very cool all the same. Oh well, there are some things I could mention. The Auroras are cyclic. They “peak” approximately every 11 years. The last peak was 2013 but the peak is kinda like a meteor shower, ‘cause there’s still lots of action before and after it. As well, recent reports have shown an unsubstantiated (that means lots of theories, but, that’s all folks!) annual peak at the Spring and Fall equinoxes. The Spring equinox is March 20th this year. Again, that’s just a peak, so there’s potential for lots of action before and after. So, you could just look up into the night sky while shoveling the 60 cm of snow we’ll likely get on March 19th this year ! Yeah, every blog I’ve read this week has a rant, or a whine, about this “never to be sufficiently damned” Winter, so I might as well get my shots in too.
But seriously, between proximity to the 11 year cycle peak, and the Spring equinox, any night now would be a good time to glance skyward on an evening stroll. I know we will, and I suppose the wife’s right. Maybe this time I’ll look up, and not think about charged ionic solar wind particles energizing electrons in atmospheric gases prompting jumps to alternate valences, emitting chromatic photons of elementally determinant spectrums dependent upon altitude and atmospheric diffusion. Maybe this time, I’ll just marvel at the pretty colored lights in the sky … like everyone else does.
This handy web site gives updated predictions of Auroral activity every 2 minutes.