Wisps of green light danced across the night sky as a spectacular display of aurora borealis was visible across Manitoba on Monday.
“It was by far the best show of 2021 and probably one of my favourites,” said Justin Anderson, co-creator of the Facebook group Manitoba Aurora and Astronomy. “It’s just an incredible thing to witness.”
Generally speaking cities aren’t great places to take in the natural phenomena because light pollution blots out the aurora borealis. But in rare cases when the northern lights are particularly bright, as they were Monday, people within cities can catch the magic.
Anderson watched the show from Brandon, but people from Winnipeg and across western Canadian cities managed to snap photos of the lights from inside city limits.
Those outside cities were treated to even more remarkable displays, Anderson said. People from West St. Paul to Plumas, from Birds Hill Provincial Park to Delta Marsh and Garden Hill First Nation all documented the vivid spectacle.
The reason so many people took notice has something to do with the three stages of aurora borealis: expansion, break up and recovery, Anderson said.
In the expansion phase the initial signs of a green glow appear on the horizon, while recovery is the final stage, which is characterized by pulsating lights.
The middle part, or break up, is when the lights start to dance in earnest and when multiple colours emerge. That stage was brighter and longer than some other displays, Anderson said.
“It was so bright that as soon as it started to blow up and dance, it was overhead, so the entire sky turned pink and green and blue and just so many colours,” he told CBC Up to Speed host Faith Fundal on Tuesday. “The ground was so bright it was almost as if there was a full moon out.”
Anderson said there was potential to see the lights again Tuesday night. A good place to check for signs of the lights forming (aside from looking up) is to check the Manitoba Aurora and Astronomy Facebook page.
If you see posts suggesting the odds are good that night, Anderson recommends heading to provincial or national parks for the best look. Failing that, he said, driving even 15 minutes outside a city can provide an excellent view.
And if you miss out on the next show, Anderson says not to fret. Winter is the best season to catch the northern lights, and winter is coming.
“Stick with it because you’ll get a really good show. It’s always a rush to see it, especially when it explodes like it did last night.”