If the last two nights were any indicator, cloudy skies all day were exactly where we wanted to be by nightfall.
Then as deep twilight set in somewhere around 7pm, the clouds started to break on the horizon, and it all seemed perfect. Until it wasn't. We spent most of our night dodging flying gravel from the ice road truckers along the Ingraham Trail until late, when a brief break in the weather yielded a short dance from the lady straight above.
Once again, Yellowknife's weather forecast was leaving much to be desired. The satellite imagery was planting just seeds of optimism. And 24 hours earlier was the dream.
The dream of clouds passing, revealing quickly progressing green arcs. Soon enough, the sky was perfect. Not a trace of flurries or ice crystals falling into our faces staring straight up anymore, and then for hours - hours - greens, pinks and purples didn't stop dancing over our heads.
Candles lit. Our next episode of Survivor ready to stream on the TV, and as I was getting up off the sofa after dinner for another cup of tea, out of nowhere 'Look outside!' my girlfriend calls from the kitchen. I turn and there's a howling cloud of white against the window. Blowing snow so violent it actually startles me. If that wasn't enough to make you doubt the clear skies supposedly just 'right there' to the east, nothing would have.
But just an hour and a half later, I stepped into my driveway to get into Bryndís to make my three stops around town for everyone, already under a few stars. And by the time we got onto the Ingraham Trail, for all intents and purposes, the skies were clear, and the aurora was there, waiting for us, just teasing in the southern sky.
This wasn't going to be a night of usual. By just 22:30, it was already certain that the whole conservative approach to keeping photos was not possible. 3-5 photos by the end of the night for my personal collection? Lol. 30-50 is where I'm at after a few culls this morning. 30-50 photos I want to keep, and a little bit of a sore neck still. It's usually a pretty solid joke out there, that we'll all wake up with sore necks the next morning from staring straight up so much. But last night by 2am, it was legitimately painful to continue to look straight up.
Of course, I just want to do it all again. Again and again.
150,000,000 kilometres at 375km/second, and the prediction models of that incoming CME were off by a few hours, in the wrong direction, for us. Forgivable, for sure. And still, although not under the influence of the CME like I hoped, we had a wonderful night with pinks and greens, plenty of dancing above our heads, and today, I get to enjoy the webcams of Norway for something a little more special than usual.
Listening to a broken record isn't great, but when you can drown it out with the white noise of the car's heater on the maximum strength, it's not that bad. You sort of forget about it, the sounds just muffle together, maybe you doze in and out of sleep a little.
"I think we'll have something in just a little while more" you hear from the front of the car. That wasn't the heater talking again was it, because tell me Sean isn't still on the 'just a little while more' thought. But I was. Just a little while more and we were there.
Clear skies beginning some sixty kilometres west wasn't the only pleasant surprise of the last 24 hours. Perhaps more surprising than the clouds opening up to reveal a little northern lights last night was an earth directed c-class flare, hopefully arriving somewhere between the 14th and 15th. Welcome to solar minimum.
Time and time again, she retreated across the sky to the northern horizon, dancing in a way of piano keys being played.
And if something so gently beautiful isn't already enough to make you want to soak up every last moment of it, every last percentage of that 76% humidity at -28°, and that better than expected clear sky and consistently beautiful aurora sweeping gently from horizon to horizon the duration of the night, the light snowstorm on it's way down from the north for later tonight should be.
That's about where we were, standing at the back of the car, just in some quiet conversation about agricultural importing and exporting back in Korea and the rise of organic farming. The aurora was still quietly overhead of us, in just a single arc barely discernible to the eye, as it had been for the better part of a few hours now. Then in a heartbeat, a literal heartbeat, everything changed. Rivers of green flowed overhead horizon to horizon and the landscape lit up.