Aurora borealis

Today, a nonplant post. Nada. Absolutely nothing to do with plants. Instead, we take a moment to appreciate a very rare celestial event that took place on the night of May 10, 2024. Earlier that day, the sun underwent one of the largest coronal mass ejections seen since record keeping began almost 500 years ago. The resulting geomagnetic storm was supposed to create an aurora borealis that would be visible as far south as where we live near Corvallis, in western Oregon.

Excited about the possibility of seeing one, I ran outside and looked north at 9:00 pm (too early, too light) and 9:30 pm (ditto). Finally, around 10:15 pm, I could see that the northern sky was a little lighter than the rest of it, like a big city was just beyond the trees.

L and I hopped in the car, drove a few miles, and parked in a dirt driveway next to an open field to wait. At first, the aurora was fairly subdued. It was also cold and windy. I hadn’t dressed appropriately and wanted to go back home to a nice warm bed. Not only that, but there was a steady stream of traffic with other people coming out to see the event for themselves. Inevitably, they would slow down as they approached our car (well off the highway), blinding us with their high beams. Annoying. Fortunately, they all moved on to another spot further down the road.

Then, at 10:51 pm, the light show started.

Keep in mind that the camera captures more of the color than our eyes could see because of its longer exposure time. The aurora borealis was still breathtaking in person though.

Although the electric pole and lines give a sense of scale, they were in the way of a good photo. We crossed the road into a field of grass and watched from there (with the traffic now behind us).

We stayed until 11:40 pm, when the sky started dimming and there was less action. We headed home, where I took one final shot of the northern sky from our front yard. 

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Kris P

    Fantastic photos! I’m glad you hung in. I checked our skies but LA is just too bright at night, especially in our area which is practically on top of the LA harbor – it’s lit up all night. One of the outermost areas of the County reported views but they were hours away.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I’m sorry you didn’t see it. I sometimes take for granted that we live out in the country, where it is dark and we can see the stars. It was beautiful!

  2. Chavli

    Coronal mass ejections and geomagnetic storms are fun terms to learn, though they don’t do justice when describing that awesome natural display. I imagine how scary it had to have been to ancient humans… I’m glad you had a chance to experience it. Very cool photos.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Yes, it is fun to imagine what it must have been like back in ancient times. I’d take it as positive sign that the gods were throwing a giant celebration. Some day, I’d like to get to Iceland and see the aurora borealis up close and personal.

  3. danger garden

    Wowsa! We were in Spokane that weekend and too tired to drive out of the city lights. Glad you did.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Sorry you missed it. I still can’t believe we were lucky enough that it wasn’t cloudy. So often these things happen in Oregon and then it rains!

Leave a Reply