'Photon bliss': Sask. astronomy enthusiast says Monday’s northern lights 'a gift'

The skies put on a dazzling display Monday night with the aurora borealis lighting up most of central and northern Saskatchewan.

Amateur astronomer Ron Waldron says the conditions were perfect for the display, which appeared around 9 p.m. and got the most spectacular at 10 p.m.

He referred to Monday’s show as “photon bliss.”

“What made this one special was the strength of the coronal mass ejection and the fact that we had a clear sky and the moon had set at the time of the display. The moon tends to wash out fainter aurora, but it was already setting as this display started,” Waldron told CTV News.

The astronomy aficionado said the rare sighting happens when the solar wind is being ejected from the sun and then interacts with the upper atmosphere and the oxygen atoms fluoresce.

What we can see from earth is the interaction of the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field.

Only those north of the 49th parallel get to witness it, making it more elusive and special, according to Waldron.

“Every display is different. It’s even better than looking at a kaleidoscope because even displays repeat themselves in a kaleidoscope.

“Every time you see the Northern Lights, the shapes are totally different as they follow the magnetic lines of the magnetic field,” he says.

This display featured mostly auroral arcs which are U-shaped displays with some Aurora bands which are vertical spikes.

He says NASA put out an alert about 48 hours prior to Monday night, allowing him time to set up his equipment.

Waldron says this illuminating show was fast and while it could be appreciated by the naked eye, high tech digital equipment was able to capture the beauty in even more detail.

Saskatoon had a brilliant display to watch, but the show got even better further north because it’s higher in the sky, according to Waldron.

He says the last big display was in 2015 around the same time of year, but it was not as accessible as this one because it happened at 4 a.m.

“Last night was a gift because you didn’t have to wait up so long. It occurred when everybody was up and the skies cleared up,” he said.

Waldron says the show continue Tuesday night between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. but likely won’t be as impressive.