One of the most beautiful, mysterious phenomena offered by the cosmos beyond shooting stars, eclipses or the contemplation of a comet are undoubtedly the aurora borealis. Complex dancing forms in bright colors ranging from yellow and green through orange to pink and purple.
These auroras have captivated the imagination of man for thousands of years, however it is an absolutely exotic and strange phenomenon for the vast majority of mortals who do not live near the polar circles. Because of that fascination I always have for the unknown, for the different, I traveled to one of the most northeastern places in Canada, near the border with Alaska. There I was lucky to capture the most beautiful images that the human eye can see in the night sky.
Whitehorse retains the shape of the old peoples of the colonizers of the American West. Even many of its buildings still imitate those of the canteens, stores and hotels of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Although it is the capital of the state of Yukon, it barely has a little more than 24 thousand inhabitants and at first glance it would seem that there is nothing to do here.
Behind the minimalist and solitary landscape, Whitehorse and the Yukon territory are developing as a budding tourist power, adventure destinations, winter sports and contemplation of wildlife are some of their offers.
But what for me was really exciting to visit was a distant place, a beauty hidden in the depths of the dark nights. A night show of lights and fantasy, which is only enjoyed if you are as far as possible from the lights of the city, the northern lights. The famous northern lights.
Getting to see the northern lights nowadays does not require complicated expeditions or scientific accompaniments, but it does require at least a good preparation and selection of the place and dates. Auroras are most easily seen in the northern hemisphere in countries such as Canada, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Russia and Greenland. The most appropriate time is from September to April, throughout the winter and early spring, but it is useless to choose the place well but the weather forecast is taken into account.
That is why it was definitive to select Canada as my destination. I chose a window between the 18th and the 22nd of March in which clear skies were expected at night for the city of Whitehorse, and yet even with the forecast, the right place and the date, the aurora borealis is a cosmic phenomenon that It's beyond our control, so seeing them is not guaranteed. Taking into account that you have to be as far as possible from the light pollution of cities, the selected observatory would be several kilometers from the center of Whitehorse in the middle of the polar forest. The ideal would be a moonless night, since the light of our satellite can also interfere with the light of auroras. Despite having a full moon, I was optimistic.
As the temperatures in the winter night of Yukon can fall to minus 30 degrees centigrade and less, you have to wear special clothes for these temperatures and carry extra batteries, since the cold quickly discharges the cameras. In any case, the observatory is equipped with two cabins and two Indian tepees in which one can shelter from the cold, while the phenomenon appears.
My group was ready to observe that natural wonder, but the hours passed and the anxiety made us think that maybe our trip had been useless. However, around 00:30 on March 19, on our first outing, as if it were a mirage, a slight green vein began to draw in the night sky. I had been told that auroras could be very light or very intense or very long or very short and at times I thought that that would be all I would see. But the thin line soon began to expand both in its diameter and in its length.
Suddenly the whole silhouette of the snow-capped mountains seemed covered by a fluorescent halo, intense and permanent. For the second night, the phenomenon was repeated almost with a programmed precision, practically at the same time. A green vein like the previous day was drawn in space. But nothing had prepared me for the spectacular cosmic dance that the solar winds had orchestrated for that night.
What began as a green vein multiplied into several, appearing and disappearing in different places in the sky. At times they unfolded and stretched like the serpentines of the gods, later giving rise to vertical languages that grew as if forming an immense flame that covered half the space of the sky, flapping between the yellows and the fluorescent greens. Gently releasing light purple and pink veils.
One and a thousand times I had read, heard and seen photographs and videos of this prodigy, but I always wondered how the human eye would capture them directly and not through a camera. I must say that as rarely in my life, my expectation was immeasurably surpassed, for this, the most magical moment I have ever witnessed.
By the third day, heaven was again generous with us. We were awarded with a new presentation of this concert, this stellar ballet, which I was finally able to capture in beautiful images. The most beautiful natural spectacle I have seen.
Note: initially published in Semana Especial Magazine about Canada..