The northern lights head south

03Aug10

If you’re fortunate enough to live south of the frozen tundra we call Minnesota — where my parents abandoned me when they retired to the South 16 years ago — you’ve probably never seen the eerie spectacle we call the “northern lights.”  (No, I’m not bitter. Why do you ask?)

Anyway … because of an unusually active solar surface, over the next 36 hours you may just get your shot. Here’s the scoop, from the Boston Globe:

The latest estimates are that the plasma will arrive in four waves, one at 3 a.m. Wednesday, one at 1 p.m. Wednesday, one at 8 p.m. Wednesday, and one at 2 a.m. Thursday, said David Aguilar, a spokesman for the Harvard-Smithsonian center.

There is a three-hour window of uncertainty both before and after those target times, he said, because the speed of the waves is not constant.

“They’re like giant hurricanes. They’re large and fuzzy and they’re moving along. They’re not like railroad trains in Europe that run on time,” he said.

Obviously Mr. Aguilar has never been to Italy. But I digress.

If you should happen to have insomnia tonight, peek out the window and look at the northern sky. You may just be treated to one of the most otherworldly sights in nature.

(Kudos to Brian Peterson for the gorgeous photo. He’s way up there among my all-time favorite shooters.)


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