This is a story about a sunspot; a big, bold and beautiful sunspot that sparked huge auroras around Earth as it sprayed the galaxy with plumes of solar charged particles in early March 2012. Like an active volcano crackling with intensity the sunspot rolled around the sun's eastern limb (left side) and became geoeffective; it was pointing toward earth. Daily solar flares and CME's (coronal mass ejections) made world news for over a week as the sun announced it was in the peak phase of its approximate 11-year solar cycle. Every time a fresh gust of solar wind impacted earth a new outburst of auroras was created. These "geomagnetic storms" were breathtaking.
On the morning of March 12, 2012, I was 50 miles southeast of Anchorage along the Seward Highway, standing on the frozen tip of one of Alaska's coveted fjords, the Turnagain Arm, when the sky turned to brilliance. It was 3:45 am and a late rising moon climbed over the Kenai Mountains, casting a welcome glow into the valley as an enormous aurora curtain migrated into the southeast. The earth's magnetic field lines were revealed as electrons spiraled in a downpour of energy and left painted trails of red and green light in their wake. The lights of Portage Junction twinkled in the distance as the moon beamed, snow crunched and the curtain shimmered. It was a full sensory impact.