Stargazers, aspiring astronomers show up for 2nd night of Northern Lights in Bay Area

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Sunday, May 12, 2024
Bay Area shows up for 2nd night of Northern Lights
The aurora borealis is headlining for a second night over the Bay Area, and the crowds continue to show up.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The aurora borealis is headlining for a second night over the Bay Area, and the crowds continue to show up.

"I think it's, like, magical. You think about it from when you're a kid. You see pictures of it. And you just want to see it for real. I have never seen it for real. So, I thought the opportunity was too awesome to skip," said Scott Zimmerman.

He and his family drove up from Mountain View, hoping to catch the northern lights from the viewing platform at the Chabot Space and Science Center up in the hills of Oakland.

"It's pretty exciting. Kind of reminds us that we are part of a much bigger universe. And sometimes the universe talks back to us," said Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer at Chabot.

There's another chance to see the Northern Lights across parts of the Bay Area and California as the geomagnetic storm continues.

As he explains, the sun releases ionized gas. Those clouds, sometimes bigger than the actual sun, travel out into space. It's interaction with the earth's atmosphere produces the lights.

"I did get a chance to see it (Friday) night. When we look to the north from here at the Chabot Space and Science Center, we could see a faint reddish glow in the sky," McKeegan said.

He says the sun in on an 11-year cycle, which means every 10 to 20 years, the northern lights become visible this far south.

"I have heard my father say he always wanted to see the northern lights. So, I had this dream that I would take him there. But it is over here, so it is good that he can see it," said Preet Pratyusha.

The 14-year-old Pratyusha wants to be an astronomer. So she see this as special opportunity.

Astronomers say Saturday night's cloud coverage won't necessarily block the lights, but a rise in humidity from the clouds could cause a problem. And, the lights are too spread out to be seen using one of Chabot's telescopes.

Timelapse video from photographer Brian Fulda captures the Northern Lights as they dazzled stargazers over Blue Canyon, California.

"It is something that is unusual. You cannot see it anywhere else. It is kind of rare, so I just want to see it," Pratyusha said.

McKeegan says the more intense the geomagnetic storm, the more chances there are of power outages and disruptions to electronics such as cellphones, TVs and radios.

"As far as I know, we have had none of that happen yet. But stayed tuned!" McKeegan said.

That's because McKeegan says Sunday night will likely produce the most intense light show, because of a massive gas released Saturday morning that is headed towards earth.

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