The Aurora Borealis and the Importance of Dark Skies
Humanity has pondered the stars and studied the sky since the dawn of civilization. The vast majority of people today only see the night sky through a filter of human needs. Well lit sky scrapers, apartment complexes, homes, the hum and glow of the freeway, street lamps, airplane beacons, all of which human existence depends on, also emit light pollution skewing our view of what’s above us. This list of illumination we send to the night is immeasurable since the invention of the light bulb and our rapid expanse of world population. Here in Voyageurs National Park and the gateway communities we do get to see a glimpse at the heavens unobstructed by human creation. There is virtually no light pollution in and around Voyageurs and in fact we are working with the Dark Skies Association https://www.darksky.org/ to gain our own Dark Skies Designation, a designation that few places on the planet can have.
Awestruck, by definition, means an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or even fear produced by that which is grand, sublime, or extremely powerful. The night skies of Voyageurs provide those experiences and Voyageurs Outfitters can be your vehicle to a truly awe-inspiring night sky experience.
Pictures or videos don’t do justice to seeing the Lights for the first time. There are variations of this phenomena caused by Earth’s magnetosphere’s contact with solar wind where a ring of green will appear on a night’s horizon like a soft blanket. This only occurs at the poles of our world, the far north and south where metals form the strongest magnet to attract the sun’s emission of charged particles. There are other times when the ring expands with even more protons and electrons from even a more ever-reaching sun deflect off our atmosphere forming a green sheet that covers the sky with waves from above as if on a clothesline.
I was fourteen the first time I truly was awestruck. On the shoreline of Rainy Lake with friends we all stopped in our tracks of youthful ignorance and beheld the spectacle unfolding in the clear black night. Giant tidal waves of green and yellow crashed into the atmosphere above us. The sky dancing its vibrant jade in front of the infinity beyond. Violent and stunning emerald running ribbons beheld for what it seemed only us. We felt threatened like it was the end of the world yet couldn’t look away. Such a strange feeling being scared and amazed looking at the sky ripple with such color and almost break the shield we didn’t comprehend protecting us. The sun, our very light of life, making a green flashing appearance in the black of night left us mesmerized, trembling under the firmament. That flash of time I can never forget and keeps me humble.
That’s why this latitude, this dark untouched piece of Earth, this pole, pulls me like solar winds to this Northern magnet from the vast populace of urban dwelling. With friends and family appreciative to the pleasures I’ve seen, we stay as long as we can at Voyageurs National Park, the island jewel of Rainy Lake and our true home. Sometimes it’s Kabetogama, or the long fingers of Namakan, but always north. We hike, we canoe and kayak. The golden red sunset over pristine wilderness is overwhelming next to the darkening waters, but the lights of the night and all their potential, always hold me mesmerized at what’s to come.