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Aurora activity hits Bonner County

by LAUREN REICHENBACH
Staff Writer | July 29, 2023 1:00 AM

While some might think you have to travel to Alaska, Norway or Iceland to get a view of the Aurora Borealis, it’s actually not unusual to get shows right here in Bonner County.

More commonly known as the Northern Lights, the auroras are mostly active during the winter months. However, North Idaho has had quite a few chances to catch a glimpse of the lights the past few weeks, and more opportunities are predicted in the next few weeks as well.

“I’ve seen them twice since moving here last July,” said Sandpoint resident Katelyn Jaqueway, who caught pictures of the lights July 26. “Scientists think that there is going to be a peak in solar activity by 2025 so we might have even more chances to see them going into 2024 and 2025.”

The lights happen when a solar storm travels toward earth. Some of the particles from that storm make their way down the magnetic fields at the North and South poles — yes, you can see them in the Southern Hemisphere, too — and interact with gasses in the earth’s atmosphere. This causes the magnificent display of lights we call the auroras.

The storms that Bonner County experiences aren’t as bright as the ones you’d experience farther north; however, they can be equally as jaw dropping. Phone cameras pick up the lights better than the human eye can, so sometimes even if you can’t see them on your own, your phone can still catch great photos of the show.

This far south, the auroras tend to only sit on the northern horizon and don’t loom overhead like they would in Alaska or Iceland, but during some larger storms, they can travel pretty high up in the sky and “dance.”

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the auroras will happen. While many apps and Facebook groups monitor solar storms and their chances of hitting earth, it is common for those storms to seemingly vanish into thin air right before they collide with the atmosphere, leaving aurora watchers empty handed. However, some Northern Light enthusiasts might argue that this makes it even more worth the chase when they actually do catch the auroras in all their glory.