Friday, April 25, 2008


Well, that does it. I'm thoroughly enamored with auroras. They're incredibly beautiful things. Anyone who's never seen one up close should go to Alaska and find one. Now.

Why the newfound zealotry? I got caught in a full-on auroral storm.

I was leaving DSL to walk back for lunch. I'd taken to using my tripod as a walking stick, carrying it everywhere I went to catch whatever splendid sights might appear. Not far from DSL, I happened to glance back and notice a light green band behind the telescope. It wasn't terribly impressive, but made for a nice backdrop, so I set up to take some shots.

Over the next ten minutes, it grew in intensity, then started to climb in the sky. Before long it completely dominated horizon, towering over DSL. The colors started shifting, yellows and greens, reds and purples, and then it was overhead.

An aurora dancing off in the distance is lovely, no doubt. But it can't hold a candle to one directly overhead. Up close and personal, the details begin to show themselves. Every ripple comes into sharp focus, every undulation can be tracked across the sky. Every streak of dancing color effortlessly shifting and sliding through space, every curtain a thousand tiny marvels of liquid light. It's amazing.

(Unfortunately, photos blur all these details out, miss the motion entirely, and can't even begin to approach the experience.)

By this point, my camera had frozen solid, completely unwilling or unable to take any more photos. I kept expecting the aurora to peak, but it kept getting bigger, brighter, more colorful, and more awe-inspiring. Actually, awe is the wrong word - it was somehow utterly unreal, but completely accessible and present. Awe implies some sense of distance or unattainability. This felt like it was right there, and just for me. And it kept getting better.

Shifting, shimmering, multi-colored curtains of dripping light, dancing, rolling, undulating, and crashing overhead. I can't find the words to describe it. I don't think words are adequate tools.

I stood on the path for over an hour watching, unable to keep myself from giggling and cheering it on. Honestly - standing alone in the middle of a vast frozen emptiness, waving my arms and cheering.


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