One of the real unique experiences for residents and visitors to our area is to witness the dancing of the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. Here in the northern latitudes, on a clear evening when the conditions allow, the Aurora can provide a multi-colored display that will often flicker or shimmer. The term Aurora Borealis comes from the Latin “aurora” meaning “sunrise”, and “borealis” meaning “to the north”.
While the Aurora can appear at any time of the year and any time of the evening, the chances increase during winter with longer periods of darkness. The intensity and drama of the event depends on the intensity of the solar flares. And the Aurora can take on a number of different colors – green, red, blue and purple, depending on which atoms are struck in the atmosphere and the altitude of the collision. There are a number of websites that can forecast the probability of seeing the Aurora Borealis, including Aurora Borealis Forecast – www.auroranotifier.com, and Aurora Forecast – www.auroraforecast.com.
I have been fortunate to witness the wonder of the Aurora Borealis many occasions. One of the most memorable was in late summer at our Rainy Lake Cabin. Our family was enjoying a fire on a clear and moonless evening watching the stars and listening to the nightlife. A faint green glow appeared in the sky and grew in size and intensity and began to shimmer and dance. It continued on for some time and above it a faint bluish purple accent appeared and the colors faded then intensified – it almost appeared as if the colored bands were being shaken like a large cosmic blanket. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a camera to capture the event, but we still talk about the light show from that evening.
The fascination of the night sky has led Voyageurs National Park in conjunction with Voyageurs Conservancy in December 2020 to designate Voyageurs as an International Dark Sky Park. The designation, granted by the International Dark Sky Association, recognizes Voyageurs for the exceptional quality of its dark night skies and for the Park’s commitment to preserving darkness and educating the public about this outstanding resource. The Dark Sky movement is part of an international effort to advocate for the protection of the nighttime environment and dark night skies by educating the public about night sky conservation and by promoting environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.