The Aurora Borealis: On the Lookout

 
October 24, 2016

14681986_1162866017129997_3080061528058186570_oDuring this special time of year, the beautiful finale of the Fall Color season is fading into the muted but still splendid beauty of late October. But don’t worry; there is more than one colorful reason to adore the Lake Superior shoreline. It is the North Shore’s shy and silent visitor, often passing unseen in the middle of the night as guests at the Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts lay sleeping or counting sheep. Commonly known as the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis is prominently featured on bucket lists and traveling blogs and many a guest has asked the age-old question: How do we see it? Well, we’ve done the research and we’re happy to give you some tips.

For the scientifically curious, the Aurora Borealis is actually a natural electrical event caused when charged particles from the sun (solar wind) collide with other particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s okay if you need to read that line twice. Pale greens and pinks are most common, and the color is simply a result of which molecules the solar particles collide with. Green? Oxygen! Red? Oxygen at high altitudes. Blue or purple-red? Nitrogen. Now that you’re all ready for your next Minnesota trivia night, you’ll be thrilled to learn that a camera lens will often reveal a much more intense display than the naked eye! Pretty cool, huh?

Now, the big questions: How can we know when to look? Aurora Borealis activity is rated using “Kp number” from 0 to 9. The higher the Kp, the further South the lights will be visible and the better your chances! If you are staying on the North Shore and your rating is between 4 and 6, it’s time to wake the neighbor and start looking for the lights. When that time comes, every Minnesotan has their favorite forecasting website or cellphone app for the latest update. Here at Bluefin Bay, we tend to favor www.aurora-service.org/aurora-forecast. Not only will it give you precise updates up to an hour in advance, but the information is provided by Nasa’s ACE spacecraft and accompanied by an assortment of maps displaying the live forecast.

So, the next time your friends start to post frenzied Facebook statuses about the Northern Lights on the North Shore, you will be more than prepared to supply a timely fun fact or go look for the show yourself! We wish you the best of luck in your search, and encourage you to share your epic photos with our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages!