PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — Extreme solar weather events pushed the Northern Lights so far last week that one Bay Area photographer was lucky enough to capture the celestial phenomenon.
Wilson Lam told CBS SF a sleepless night led him to Facebook where one of his friends reported the Northern Lights were visible from the East Bay hills.
Determined to find them on the Peninsula, Lam drove up Skyline Blvd. in Palo Alto to get as far away as possible from the inner Bay Area lights. He searched for an unobstructed view for about an hour. At 4:20 a.m., he snapped a photograph of the pink glowing lights spilling from the horizon.
The part-time photographer, working with a Nikon D610 DSLR, said he made minor corrections to the image in Photoshop to enhance the pink glow.
The Northern Lights dazzled skywatchers across a large swath of the United States last week thanks to a big solar flare from the sun.
Ben Burress, an astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, said the sky glow in Lam’s photo is evidence the auroras swept as low as the Bay Area.
The last time the Northern Lights illuminated Bay Area skies was likely in 2001.
“Under conditions of strong/extreme solar weather events auroras can be seen this far south—farther in some cases,” Burress said. “I have friends in Arizona who saw brilliant auroras during the previous solar maximum (12 years ago).”
But that’s nothing. The Carrington solar storm in the 1850’s was so strong that auroras were seen as low as the Caribbean and in Tahiti.