Northern Lights at the Lighthouse

Northern Lights at the Lighthouse


In my twenty-five (25) years on McInnes Island one of the most spectacular sights in the winter was the Northern Lights display (aurora borealis1) in the northern night time sky. Absolutely beautiful!

This was brought to mind the other day when I saw this October 10, 2012 article online Image: Aurora Dips South Across Canada

The aurora borealis was photographed from space over Montreal and Lake Superior on Oct. 08, 2012. CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory

When a powerful solar flare, known as a coronal mass ejection, hit Earth’s magnetic field on Oct. 8, people living in North America’s northern latitudes were treated to a spectacular light show.

This visible light image from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite shows the northern lights swirling across Canada’s Quebec and Ontario provinces. The city lights of Montreal also shine in the bottom of the image.

Source:Image: Aurora Dips South Across Canada by   www.livescience.com

Latitude (horizontal)

McInnes Island lighthouse was not that far north2 (Latitude 52° 15′ 45” North) so we did not always see the Northern Lights as they would appear further north, but when a solar flare like the one mentioned above happened, then our northern sky would light up green, and sometimes with a touch of red colour.

 If you wish to see the aurora, and think it might be visible at your latitude, then follow A Guide for Watching Earth’s Auroras. The main requirement is a viewing place away from city lights.

We never had a very good camera where we could capture the aurora, but the photo below shows a bit of what it was like in our area – mostly green.

 If you are interested to see more photos, take a look at this Google Search I made.


The aurora borealis, also called the northern lights, forms when charged particles from the sun collide with particles in Earth’s magnetic field. The aurora is typically limited to high northern latitudes because the magnetic field sweeps the charged particles toward the poles. But when large solar flares bombard the Earth, the aurora can dip south to lower latitudes. – www.livescience.com

. . . the actual latitudes of the Lights vary considerably. In times of high solar activity (more on that later), the Lights may be seen in North America at latitudes as low as 35 degrees north, meaning that all but the southernmost parts of the United States may get a display. The offset of the Pole keeps solar storms from benefiting Europe quite as strongly, but most of the countries of northern Europe will get displays during periods of solar storms.  – Wikitravel

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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