The aurora borealis lit up the night sky early in the morning on Aug. 5 for a lucky few including Salmon Arm’s Amber Weatherill to see and photograph. (Amber Weatherill Photo)

Northern lights visible for Okanagan and Shuswap sky-watchers

From Salmon Arm to Penticton, people caught a glimpse of the celestial spectacle.

Night owls, photographers and amateur astronomers were treated to a show that is rarely seen in the Okanagan and Shuswap early in the morning on Aug. 5; the brilliant green and purple waves of a summertime aurora borealis dancing across the pre-dawn sky.

The celestial spectacle, which is caused by disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field due to solar wind, is usually only visible further north, but it put on a show this morning and may be even more visible tonight and tomorrow.

One of those lucky enough to have eyes turned skyward in the early morning hours when the aurora was visible was Amber Wetherill, a Salmon Arm resident. Wetherill and her husband were up feeding their newborn and stepped outside to look at the stars at about 2 a.m.

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“We were shocked to see the dancing green aurora, it was so beautiful moving across the sky,” Weatherill said.

Weatherill snapped a few photos on her cell phone in order to share the experience with others.

The northern lights were visible as far south as Penticton where they were photographed by Erin Tilley. Tilley said she actively follows northern lights predictions and often takes test shots from her home near Okangan Lake before heading out to a favourite viewing location at the Wharf Park in Naramata.

Sitting in the dark by the wharf, Tilley said she was treated to an array of meteors as well as the aurora which gained and lost intensity as the night went on.

“The lights lit up the sky, came and went in just a blink of an eye,” she said.

Tilley said the northern lights forecast for tonight is also promising.

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According to Environment Canada’s space weather forecast, an indicator of aurora activity Aug. 6 could bring more intense aurora activity. The space weather forecast uses a scale known as DRX to express the average magnetic field intensity over a day. The forecast shows a DRX rating of 15 for Aug. 5 and a rating of 18 for Aug. 6

August will feature a number of other celestial events which will show themselves in the night sky. According to Space.com Mercury will be visible in early morning sky between Aug. 1 and 19 and the Perseid meteor shower peaks on Aug. 12 and 13.


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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