Aurora Borealis in the Santa Cruz Mountains

The Northern Lights appeared in Northern and Central California Saturday night.

PUBLISHED MAY 13, 2024 11:03 A.M.
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When Chris texted me an article Saturday predicting that the Northern Lights would be visible in parts of Northern California, I felt lucky. I had booked an Airbnb for the night in the Santa Cruz Mountains—just a few miles from the ridgetop cabin that my wife and I called home for seven years. It’s been about that long since we moved to Sacramento, and since I sat looking up through the redwoods at the night sky—which is how we ended many of our days back then.

It felt good, and familiar to be doing that again Saturday night, with the added enticement that the sky might just errupt in a light show. I’ve witnessed the northern lights only a handful of times, when I lived in Montana a third of a lifetime ago. If you’ve never seen this cosmic phenomenon, you may have heard that it can be an ecstatic experience.

I have to say that that did not happen Saturday, although I did begin to feel an elevated heartrate when I sensed some kind of energy moving above the horizon. When I took the photo above, frankly, I did not expect to see much more than silhouetted trees and distant stars, so I was surprised by the purple waves. I have since learned that, somehow, our iPhone cameras can see the aurora better than our eyes—and I guess that's a good thing!

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