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We Missed the Solar Eclipse Last Month, So What? We Have Northern Lights!

Some 200 cars and trucks lined Redoubt Rd. at South Beach in the San Juan Island National Historical Park after sunset last night (Fri., May 10, 2024).

Not much was happening as the 9:00 p.m. hour wore on, and a few cars departed. But as every last sign of the sunset waned by 10:00 p.m., a faint green streak appeared first in the northeast sky, then formed a faint line from east to west (as if from Anacortes to Port Angeles).

Early in the show, a point of infinity developed directly overhead. Soon after, it spread across the sky forming a 360 degree dome. Jeremy Tyler/CNL2 photo

Then at approximately 10:30 p.m. — like a slow rolling celestial fireworks show — a green “X” formed directly over South Beach. The “X” morphed into a starburst shape, and the aurora began spread across the entire sky. By 11:00 p.m., curtains of color radiated from the center point, forming what felt like a dome of green, purple, pink, and occasionally red light. It was like being under a massive multi colored umbrella.

The crowd of onlookers grew quiet, and talk and laughter yielded to oohs and ahhs.

By midnight, the hues had faded greatly. The show was over for all but a few diehard photographers. But the show definitely did not disappoint.

The photos here were shot by CNL2 president Jeremy Tyler. He shot them on a Nikon D850, through an 18mm lens, exposed for 30 seconds at an ISO of 100. While they are long exposure, they are not HDR. These are the real colors the camera saw.

While the most striking aurora photos are long exposure and more vivid than appear to the naked eye, the unassisted real-time human view was also striking, and for some awe-inspiring. It’s a sight one will carry a lifetime.

What struck this reporter was how quickly the aurora shifts shapes and colors. The image of the belts of color change significantly minute to minute. And like so many things, the experience is far better on an island.

Jeremy Tyler/CNL2 Photo
Jeremy Tyler/CNL2 Photo
Jeremy Tyler/CNL2 Photo
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