Friday, July 25, 2008


I remember a night at Gray Knob when the whole sky lit on fire with the aurora. It was 27 years ago tonight.

My friend Steve Weber, aka Swebco, was there that night, and we sat on the edge of Knight's Castle, a rock outcrop a few hundred feet above Crag Camp, and grooved on the incredible celestial fireworks. I even got some great photos.

from Knight's Castle looking at Crag Camp

I finally hit the sack at 3:00 am, only to be awoken by Swebco, who a half hour later was pounding on the wall of the building yelling:

"Get back out here, it's better than before."

Here's my log entry the next day, July 26, 1981 (scroll down on the link):

July 26 - Incredible Northern Lights last night.The whole sky was lit up with curtains and streaks of pulsating light. We sat up on Knight's Castle and watched the incredible celestial fireworks.-- SMC, Caretaker.
I've seen the aurora a number of times since, including the amazing red aurora that most of north America apparently saw in November of 2002 (saw it out in my backyard in VA!)

Wired has a new article on the mechanics of the Aurora, worth a read.
The ghostly flickering of the Northern Lights is caused by explosions of magnetic energy, say astronomers.

Until now, nobody knew why the aurora sometimes shifted and danced across the sky. And all it took was a fleet of five satellites positioned in the magnetosphere and a team of ground-based observers who caught the beginning of a magnetic storm about 80,000 miles from Earth, or a third of the way to the moon.

Want to see where the aurora might be seen? Click here and then click where you live on the globe for a daily forecast.