Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Northern lights elusive in Ireland

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Only once have I seen the northern lights. Years ago, we had friends over and, after they went to their car around 10 p.m., we had a knock at the door. The sky was ablaze with northern lights. It was a sunset, lightning storm and rainbow all thrown together. I was a little tired, and we came back in the house too early after watching them. Little did I know how elusive they are and how I should have camped in our front yard for the night to view them.

On our trip to see Maddie in Ireland this spring, we made a side trip to Iceland with one of our goals to see the northern lights, which are more common the more north you are.

The northern lights (referred to as the “aurora”) originate when solar activity on the surface of the sun produces a cloud of gas that takes two to three days to get to Earth’s magnetic field. It’s much more complicated than this, but mostly the particles collide with our atmosphere’s oxygen and nitrogen and produce fantastic lights.

The interesting thing is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keeps track of these clouds of gases and will even predict when and where the northern lights might be visible.

Their prediction led my daughters, Annemarie and Maddie, and me to be parked on a hill in Iceland at 11 p.m. on a night so windy our car was rocking back and forth. We scanned the skies, stuck our heads out to see if the lights might be over our heads and didn’t see a thing.

We got back to Nebraska and saw photos of the northern lights that people in Columbus had seen. Columbus, Nebraska.

So there’s hope of seeing the lights in Nebraska. Just two nights ago, the NOAA had predicted possible viewings of the lights closer to Des Moines, Iowa, but with a possibility of seeing them in Nebraska. The best time to view them is 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. when I would have been outside scanning the skies, but I had missed the prediction. It looks as though in the near future I will have to be in Manitoba, Canada, to get a good look.

Also, several times a week from August to April, people in Alaska get to see the northern lights. This is according to auroranotify.com, a site that is going to help me pinpoint the time when I will finally be able to see the lights. People use this site to discuss their northern lights sightings and would think nothing of making special trips to Manitoba for a good view. I’ll let you know if Nebraska is going to be a viewing site soon.

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