A Gabriola Island photographer was in for quite the spectacle Saturday night, pointing her camera toward the Sunshine Coast to capture the northern lights dancing above.
At Orlebar Point, Kumiko Hawkes captured the green and purple hues around 10:15 p.m., adding to her already expansive image catalogue of aurora borealis displays.
“[I’ve seen] several nice ones this year so far,” Hawkes told CHEK News. “Three hours [is] the longest time I’ve ever seen [them] so far.”
On Saturday, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute ranked the probability of seeing the northern lights as “high” across Canada, coast to coast from Charlottetown to Vancouver.
Aurora viewing season is typically Aug. 21 to April 21, with clear, dark skies a must as sunlight and clouds are the biggest obstacles to observations, according to scientists at the institute.
They say active auroral displays tend to be more diffuse and fragmented later in the night, which means 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. is the time period with the highest probability for sightings.
The luminous glow, seen around the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres, forms when electrons and protons from the sun collide with gas in the Earth’s atmosphere and gain energy.
“To get back to their normal state, they release that energy in the form of light,” scientists explain.
“Electricity runs through the light fixture to excite the neon gas inside, and when the neon is excited, it gives off a brilliant light.”
Those who missed out on spotting the northern lights Saturday night may be in luck, as the local aurora forecast is “high” for Sunday as well.
If you see the lights and snap photos, you can send them to [email protected].