The northern lights—usually associated with Alaska, the Yukon Territory, Iceland and other points due north—put on a dazzling show as far south as Oregon this week, lighting up the sky in shades of green, purple and gold.
Dazzling Northern Lights display in the Pacific NW as sun unleashes geomagnetic storm:https://t.co/UVQkYoLFgE— KATU News (@KATUNews) October 12, 2021
In some parts of the country, the show will continue Tuesday and perhaps even into Wednesday—but in Oregon, unless you were among the foresighted few who raced to high ground on Monday night to see the show, you’re out of luck…for now.
“We have a cloud problem tonight,” says Dan Miller, the science and operations manager for the National Weather Service in Portland. “From Pendleton to Medford, the window is closed on this one.” (A northern lights enthusiast, Miller says he’s kicking himself for not getting in his car Monday night and heading out with his camera when he picked up on the possibility that the conditions could be favorable.)
But all hope is not lost, Miller adds: “We’re coming into a new solar cycle where this will be more frequent for the next few years. It will still be rare to see them in Oregon, but it will be much more frequent than never.”
Generally, Oregon is too far south and too cloudy for optimal aurora borealis viewing, Miller says. But every so often, the stars align—or, more precisely, the charged particles in the solar wind that interact with Earth’s magnetic field align—causing the light show.
Should you want to see the northern lights, look for an observation point, like Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge or else a high point on the Oregon coast, somewhere away from light pollution. A telescope is handy, too. To track when such an event is next coming to our skies, follow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.