Watching the data on SpaceWeatherLive I watched as sunspot 2371 developed as it rotated into position facing the Earth. It was a monster and growing. This sunspot had serious potential to launch a solar storm our way that would ignite the magnetic field and bring the Auroras to life. Just several days into rotation two M class flares burst forth directed at Earth.
With the the explosion from the Sun these two M class flares hurdled through space taking several days to reach the ACE satellite. Data spiked at 3 pm CST on June 23rd 2015. I knew the first flare had arrived. I watched as the data spiked like crazy. Solar wind speed climbed to 700, Solar Wind Density hit 25, our magnetic field slammed south with a Bz rating of -38, and the strength of the storm raged at Bt 32. I turned to the ovation map and within an hour the Hemispheric Power climbed from 20 GW to 100 GW. My heart raced and I knew this was just the first of two flares to approach. I paid attention to the data all day and by 7 the data had dropped.
I couldn't believe how fast that first initial flare passed us. I watched the data as it kept dropping, and then all of a sudden there was a hint of an increase. I grabbed my gear and headed north of Eau Claire. I approached the city of Gilman, WI and set up at my location. I waited as a passing storm brought 15-25 mph winds through the state. I knew it was going to be a struggle or a blessing to get a long exposure in that wind. Just as complete darkness set in the wind died down and the Auroras came to life.
Immediately the Northern Lights took over the entire northern horizon and shot straight over my head. I was in such awe as my heart raced with excitement. I starred straight up into the Aurora as it increased in intensity. Watching it pulse, dance, and arc above me. Starring into the heart of the Northern Lights I felt as if I was being sucked up into the heavens. I was in complete shock as I tried to figure out how to capture such beauty. Something I had never seen before in my life. I thought I would have to go to Alaska or Iceland to see Auroras like this.
With the skies clearing the Northern Lights began to push into the southern horizon. Something I had never seen before in my life. The Milky Way rose over the south eastern horizon as it was greeted by the vibrant dancing Northern Lights peering into the southern sky. At this very moment in time I felt a deep connection with nature. Something so powerful, something that I will remember for the rest of my life.