Saturday, November 24, 2007

Aurora Borealis in Bucksport!

Last night Kimberly and I were driving back to her parents' house after visiting my family in Bucksport when we saw a peculiar glow in the sky.  Having seen the Aurora Borealis one other time in my life (coincidentally on the very same road that we were driving on then), I recognized it fairly quickly.

(This is actually a picture of an Aurora Australias from Wikipedia... It was the best approximation to what we saw that I could find.)

The sight was obscured by trees that surrounded the roads we traveled.  We decided that we would keep driving past her parents' house until we could get a clear view of the sky.  As we drove down the hill that leads to the house, however, we found that the Aurora was in clear view from the driveway!

We saw something very similar to the red/orange glowing vertical lines in the picture above.  Once or twice per minute the bright green/white flash of an addition flare-up would be seen.  The weather was cold and we were tired, so we didn't stay long (and unfortunately our little digital camera wasn't able to capture anything worth sharing).  

Doing a little research this morning, I'm discovering that we were incredibly lucky to have chanced upon an Aurora Borealis under the circumstances.  Several things that made the event unlikely:

-Bucksport is a few miles south of the Bangor/Brewer metro area, which is the biggest source of light pollution in central Maine.
-Aurora activity in temperate latitudes is most likely at the peak of the sunspot cycle or for the next few years that follow it.  We're actually at the very beginning of a sunspot cycle -- the peak won't be until 2012!
-The most likely time to view the event is the middle of the night, around midnight.  This occurred at 8:30PM and was gone in the next half hour.
-The full moon is today, so we were just a few hours off from the brightest night of the month.  Auroras are most easily viewed during a new moon.

The event was an amazing, unlikely little additional treat for our awesome Thanksgiving holiday.

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