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Northern Lights video shows Seattle is perhaps too bright at night?

Northern Lights video shows Seattle is perhaps too bright at night?
Northern Lights around Mt. Rainier on June 6, 2013 with the Seattle metro area's city lights on the left. (Photo: Don Jensen)

Don Jensen had a neat idea when the Northern Lights came out in early June: Use Mt. Rainier as a tall dividing line to showcase how the city lights of the Seattle metro area can interfere with viewing the aurora.

But more than that, Jensen wondered if our city really needs to be so bright.

His 17-second video was captured the night of June 6 into the morning of June 7 and shows roughly four hours of night activity over our tallest volcano.

On the right, the purple and green hues of the Northern Lights over a pretty dark Central Washington, courtesy of a moderate solar storm. (In the middle, a surprise lenticular cloud over the Mt. Rainier summit.)

On the left, the constant yellow glow of the lights of Seattle, which obscure the natural light show going on behind it to the north.



"It might be worth taking a small step back and looking at the bigger issue, and that starts by asking a simple question," Jensen wrote on his video description page. "How much energy did it take to cast so much light into the sky that we able to outshine a KP6 Aurora event from 60 miles away?"

He says he's not arguing that we need to turn off all the lights at night, but "the majority of this visible light, is light energy that we are not even using. The point is to ask if we are really being strategic and efficient in the way we use and allocate our energy? Or, are we just taking a 'spray and pray' approach to lighting out streets, parks, porches, etc..."

He finishes with this:

"How many millions of tax dollars ever year is every major city wasting because we are spending as much time lighting up the other side of a 14,400 foot volcano as we are spending to safely and efficiently lighting out cities?...

"This isn't just about not being able to see the stars at night. Its about the reality that being inefficient is expensive."

And maybe a side benefit is a little more purple and green in the Seattle skies during Northern Lights events?