The phone rang this afternoon. It was a woman who had been spending some time on spaceweather.com. She said they had reported tonight might be a good night to see the Aurora Borealis. There had been a CME, a coronal mass ejection, from the surface of the Sun. That would interact with the Earth’s magnetic field causing an eerie glow.
A few times a year I’ll let people know the aurora might make an appearance and I am mostly wrong. Auroras are more likely to come when I say nothing! Obviously, they are very difficult to predict. I wish that wasn’t so.
I have only seen a strong aurora once. It was sometime in the early 70s. I was living in North Olmsted, Ohio and working in Cleveland at WGAR radio. I remember my friend Joel (who is now the copter guy in Detroit) was visiting from Pittsburgh.
When we first saw the luminescent curtain in the northern sky, I thought it was neat. As time went on, I got worried. The truth is, there’s no danger from an aurora and I knew that, even then. But the curtain of light was so weird, so unusual, you couldn’t help taking pause. And, over time, it looked like it was undulating toward us. Probably an optical illusion of some sort.
There’s a theory I have that we didn’t see the aurora earlier tonight because I was so well equipped to show it – some sort of Murphy’s Law for television. We had four cameras on distant rooftops to point and the chopper was flying in the cloudless skies over Hartford.
Maybe next time. Maybe later tonight. You never know.