If you can have just 50% of the aurora equation, then give me clear skies any night of the week. Auroral activity left much to be desired last night, but this is mother nature after all.
Small levels of stress are nice, when you believe you can quickly escape them. So a little cloud over Yellowknife tonight didn’t feel like the end of the world - believing we would find some clear breaks a little further from town, and then it was the balance of trying to stay under these eastward moving clear skies as the aurora came and went. These nights aren’t perfect, but they’re fun, and certainly an adventure.
Unless, of course, you’re so overtired from working almost every night for a few months straight.
But you know, it’s the adrenaline, and despite such a long, slow middle of the night tonight while some poor weather passed through luckily during weaker auroral conditions, we ended very late on the best natural high imaginable.
When both space weather satellites go down for several hours and there’s just a little other data to pick at for hints about auroral activity, I felt more than a little bit naked out there. Not that knowing any of this would change the way the aurora behaves. Plus, imagine, having to live life without real time information from a computer in your pocket. Space weather satellites going down is my equivalent of Facebook or Instagram going down. What is even the purpose of life, basically.
But how nice to just take an evening for how it is, and imagine the feeling of elation when the aurora burst into dancing greens with subtle pink edges after a very quiet first hour or two.
We can go from a sky so quiet to almost breathtakingly active in just a minute or two sometimes, and this was a night that way. It also went the other way - very quickly back to silence up there. But really it is a special thing to see how quickly the aurora changes, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, she’s always different.
Tonight was the patient kind of night, the quieter night. Everything is relative, of course, so especially after two nights ago, we’d chalk this one up into the more gentle category. It was the perfect kind of night for appreciating the sparkle of the snow in moonlight, how far the earth had rotated in relation to the stars since we first arrived, and how it no longer felt ‘pretty comfortable, actually’ toward the end of the night after a few hours outside at just -25 or so.
Add the word ‘principle’ after something as lighthearted and fun as Goldilocks and all of a sudden it sounds like we’re going into some scientific, deep universal theory. I promise you we’re not.
Tonight was just all about finding that exact right balance. Somewhere definitely not west of Yellowknife, somewhere east, but not too far east. It was about finding somewhere juuust right between cloud banks. But really the night couldn’t have been more lucky for us with the aurora beginning to shimmer just as we stepped out from the car.
Of course there are nights the weather is iffy, when it’s less than perfect and clear skies aren’t immediately abounding. And on those nights, you just wish for a window - just being able to get somewhere, and back, with still a little gas left in the tank (the car’s, and ours).
Then there are nights like this, where the weather started initially as a bit of a mess. Clear skies were out there, but they were disappearing quickly and opening right back up. Satellite images looked far less than perfect. So a little bit out of town, clouds threatened a few times into mostly clearish skies, but it was like we blinked and they’d dissipate. And from maybe 10 minutes after we got settled, the aurora barely gave us a moment over the next few hours to notice much about the weather at all. She danced and danced and danced like you just had to see to believe. Even back home at 4 in the morning, having my nightly bowl of cereal while I cull my photos, she danced gently out the windows of our home.
It was, on another cold, cold night, full of all sorts of moments we are always dreaming of. The aurora stretched from horizon to horizon. Curtains of white or milky green shimmered directly above us, and as an end of the night goodbye, she danced in a way that was far more beautiful than the photos from any tourism agency’s brochure or oversaturated Instagram post show. There are not words for these moments, and all that’s required for them is just all our patience and the best luck.
It’s the one that never fails. It’s above all else - all universal laws, all known physics.
And it is that no matter how long you’ll wait, and how long you’ve been waiting, if you just pack up your tripod that’s been outside in -37° for 5 hours, put your camera away, and get the car ready to drive back to town - it’s auroral breakup time, and the best moments of the night quickly ensue.