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chasing the aurora by Kanokwan T. '25

a celestial hunt

This past Friday evening, I wished I didn’t want to see the aurora because the trip seemed logistically inconvenient, I was tired, and I had looked forward to entering ~introvert hours~ all day… alas. A chase for the beautiful is one I can’t pass on.

aurora of green and purple in the sky

credit: Aleks Siemenn (my research grad student)

research group chat

All evening, my UROP professor and grad student01 with the Accelerated Materials Laboratory for Sustainability, headed by my <a href="">UROP</a> professor Tonio Buonassisi raved over the aurora:

“Sorry to bother folks, but given how many solar geeks are on this list I thought I should share… it’s a [Kp9] night tonight, and if my tracker is accurate, we should have a chance of seeing the northern lights tonight from just north of Boston…”

“A [Kp9] event happens [for] ~4 days every solar cycle.02 these are 11 years long This is wild.”

“Sorry, but if you’re not an aurora chaser, you might wanna mute your channel for 8 hours.”

“We got a really, really, really amazing 20 minutes shortly after 10pm. Reds, pinks, whites, greens. Unlike any prior aurora viewing. 🤩”

Grad Student

“The last one this big was 20 years ago! I am going to view it now! ☀️”

“This is supposed to be the highest visibility night this weekend of the solar flare so tonight midnight +-2 hours seems like the best time to view for the next many years in the US!”

“WOW GUYS you can see it with your bare eyes on the HIGHWAY in Maine this is INSANE”

“Oh my god”

the adventure

At 9pm, I called my friend Caitlin O. ’25 and proposed an aurora adventure. She agreed.
After an hour of discussion, we took 10-10:30pm to rally the peeps. (Added Isaac L. ’25 and Oris S. N. ‘23, which made our aurora group comprise 4 out of 5 people from our total eclipse crew. What a celestial semester.)
We spent an excruciating hour from 10:30-11:30pm trying to book the car because we underestimated the power of Procrastinating Nerds™ who were also trying to book cars. Literally every rental lot on campus was being live-booked out right under us, so we had to book across the river.  We hit error message after error message because others were trying to book the same car at the same time. It was insane.

Cait and I talked about how grateful we were about this whole experience. We were lucky to live in a city that had 24/7-accessible rental cars. We were lucky to live in an area where the aurora was visible. And, we were lucky to have friends eager to go on excursions like these.

At 12am, Isaac and I biked across Harvard Bridge to pick up the car.
We got to our spot around 1:30am and hung out for an hour. It was divine.
Around 5am, we got back to Boston. As the sun was rising, Isaac and I biked back to campus through the quiet of the city. Exhaustion and adrenaline ran through our veins. Time felt unreal. I realized that impulse ruled the evening. And it was all over.
  1. with the Accelerated Materials Laboratory for Sustainability, headed by my UROP professor Tonio Buonassisi back to text
  2. these are 11 years long back to text