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Locals share images of Northern Lights

Locals share photos of the Northern Lights along the coast
Locals share their photographs of Northern Lights

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif.-Some people who traveled above the coastal fog or "May Gray" saw the aurora borealis also known as the Northern Lights in Santa Barbara County.

The colors caught on camera have been pink, purple, red and green.

Westmont College Professor Emeritus Ken Kihlstrom, Ph.D., got a call from a Cold Spring Elementary School teacher Jean Gradias on Saturday asking where she could take kids to see the Northern Lights.

She took local high school students to Camino Cielo Road.

"It was a pretty wonderful moment to spend some time with some high school kids and look around and see how many people were up on top of a mountain looking for something beautiful to happen and when it did, it was worth it," said Gradias.

Once Kihlstrom saw her photo, he decided to drive up Gibraltar Road to see the lights, too.

Timing was everything.

"I'm thinking that is really exciting, but I am really there is no way, and then she sends me that spectacular picture and then by the time we got up you could see not very colorful not very dramatic, but at least we can say we saw the Northern Lights."

Kihlstrom, who earned a doctorate in physics from Stanford, is known for explaining things in simple terms.

"Normally, we wouldn't even imagine we would get to see Northern Lights this far south, because it all revolves around the magnetic poles, North Pole and South Pole, and you have to be way up north to see the Northern Lights, but there was an enormous solar flare, sent lots of charged particles that get in the earths magnetic fields, spins in and that is what creates the Northern Lights, but because it was powerful they are seeing it fairly far south."

Gradias and Kihlstrom shared photos and they were not alone.

Photographer Brallan Favella said he wasn't going to pass up this opportunity.

"I saw the pink in the sky and got super excited, sent the wife photos and couldn't believe it."

He took his first photos off Highway 33 and then he drove to Santa Barbara County and took photos off Highway 154.

"I'm glad I stopped there because the pillars were amazing it was lighting up in the sky it was pretty amazing to see."

He said he almost too focused on capturing and sharing images to take it all in with his eyes.

"It was a great experience, hopefully a lot of people got out there to experience and who knows we might experience it again."

A number of News Channel viewers sent in their colorful pictures.

Astrophysicists called it the biggest geomagnetic storm in decades.

They called it a G5.

Some scientists said the aurora borealis was powerful enough to disrupt satellites and power grids.

There is still a chance to see it after dark without a telescope.

Kihlstrom said people took some great photo between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

"With Santa Barbara, the problem is with May Grey you have to get above it. That is why everyone goes up Gibraltar Road to Camino Cielo Road to get a good look in the northerly direction."

He said it's about 2300 feet above sea level to clear the fog bank.

He had to drive carefully to get to a high enough place to safely park and see the show.

Photos are likely to look better than what people see at night.

"Partly, it is your eyes are not very sensitive to colors at low light levels, your night vision is mostly black and white, and so, sometimes color photographs of astronomical things turn out better than what you are actually visually seeing, you still see colors with the Northern Lights, but they come out more dramatic with a photos sometimes."

It may no longer be visible along the coast after dark, but people can always look at the stars.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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