Mint green auroras swoop in toward Pioneer Ridge in the Knik River Valley outside of Palmer, Alaska at 8:45 pm on November 4, 2018. What a refreshingly early treat!
It was Night #14 of the aurora hunt. I had driven a thousand miles as I looped northward through Denali to Fairbanks then down to Delta Junction and Glennallen. It had been an exhilarating two weeks and I had seen plenty of auroras. Now I was on the home stretch to step back into my Anchorage lifestyle and kiss my wife hello.
On the night I promised to be home, an encouraging aurora alert was announced on spaceweather.com. A coronal hole on the sun was pointing toward earth and hosing us down with a vast, aurora-generating dose of charged particles. Fortunately, my wife was very understanding and said, “You better stay out there!”
When I spotted the first green band at 8 pm I knew something very cool was being newly minted….45 minutes later breath-taking auroras burst onto the scene as I kneeled on the edge of the clear ice and composed their reflection amidst delicate ice crystals that resembled popcorn. The hoarfrost-encrusted trees contributed another tasty element while the ridgeline of Pioneer Peak provided an iconic landmark.
I do believe the auroras had saved the best for last on this trip and I am so thankful I was already clocked on and in position when the early bird special light was turned on!