There will likely be some sleepy but satisfied aurora chasers across Alberta on Thursday, after the astronomical phenomenon put on a spectacular show overnight.
While most of the world slept, a vivid aurora borealis sent purple, pink, teal and green hues dancing and shimmering across the sky.
The sight of northern lights reduced adults to gleeful children.
“Oh God, are you you filming this?!?” Kyle Tremblay exclaimed in a video sent to Global News.
“Oh. My. God. Oh my God!” he said over and over while taking photos of the sky in Alcomdale, a hamlet about 35 minutes north of Edmonton in Sturgeon County.
“Never seen something this crazy!” he said when sending in his photos.
The lights are created by charged particles that emanate from the sun, move through space and hit the Earth’s atmosphere, according to Frank Florian, the director of planetarium and space sciences at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton.
Meet the aurora borealis chasers in Alberta — ‘It’s like nothing else in the world’
Albertans who want to receive a heads up on northern lights can sign up for AuroraWatch email alerts.
The AuroraWatch website is run by a team at the University of Alberta’s department of physics, providing a real-time monitor of geomagnetic activity in the Edmonton area — although it says larger activity can be seen Alberta-wide.
Yellow alerts are issued when there is more than a 50 per cent probability of auroral displays occurring, and red alerts are issued when there is more than a 70 per cent probability.
South Edmonton resident Caroline Leighton received a yellow alert shortly after 8 p.m. on Wednesday, so she loaded up and drove north of the city to Namao — but didn’t see anything.
She told Global News she took Anthony Henday Drive all the way back home to the southside and still didn’t see the lights — but had just crawled into bed at midnight when the red alert was issued.
“Pants on,” she said, explaining she headed east of Edmonton to the Ardrossan area and parked near a dark field, where she spotted the lights.
“It was amazing,” Leighton said. “Then as I was getting home, the neighbour across the road startled me by asking me if I was out ‘chasing’ and we laughed. I said yes, and the aurora was out in the neighborhood,” she said, adding she was able to take photos inside Edmonton as well.
Normally, aurora watchers need to leave the bright lights of the city to properly take in the astronomical show.
“I’ve never seen the purple before! It was amazing! I’ll never forget this day. Ever!” she said in her email sent just after 3 a.m., saying she was back in bed and all smiles.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a rough day,” she finished with a laugh.
The red alert was in effect until dawn Thursday.
Vivid northern lights have been expected for several days now after a solar flare erupted from the sun last Thursday.
A solar flare is a powerful burst of radiation, and, when it hits Earth’s atmosphere, it has the potential to affect not only technology but also create magnificent geomagnetic storms — a.k.a. the northern lights.
Spectacular aurora borealis takes over the North American night sky
Three weeks ago, a stunning show also lit up the sky across much of North America: people across Western Canada, Americans as far south as Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio, and across the ocean in the United Kingdom all spotted the lights.
The chance of seeing an aurora increases by finding a place to view them, away from city lights, photographer Matt Melnyk told Global News last week.
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has designated five places in Alberta as Dark Sky Preserves:
- Cypress Hills in southeastern Alberta
- Jasper National Park
- Beaver Hills, east of Edmonton
- Lakeland Provincial Park, east of Lac La Biche
- Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta
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