Crapped out

Weeeell...we gambled on the aurora display in Seattle and lost. But it was fun being spontaneous and taking a chance.

We arrived in Seattle after two good flights, right on time. We killed a couple of hours in the hotel and at dusk (630pm Pacific, 0030 UTC) we set out on a walk to see what we could see.

Our first stop was atop a WallyPark parking structure a couple of blocks away. My reasoning was to get as high as possible (elevation, not psychoactive) and above street lights with a good view North. The WallyPark was perfect. But we squinted into the not-quite-dark sky for about 30 minutes, got a bit chilled from the wind and the 40-ish degree temp, then decided to take a break and wait for full dark.

Our break was a tasty BBQ snack at Sharp's Roast House, right next door. (An unfortunate name. Given that we're in Seattle, I thought a roast house would be a coffee shop. Go figure.) Good BBQ, great atmosphere and a whiskey collection for the ages. This picture shows only one of several similar racks of hooch.

After our snack we returned to the roof of the WallyPark, stared North and possibly, maybe, saw a greenish glow right on the horizon. But it was very faint, so we decided to go to Plan B.

We walked back to the hotel and bribed (yes, really) the shuttle driver to take us to what he thought would be the best vantage point nearby – the light rail station at Angle Lake. We went to the top of both the light rail track and the adjacent parking structure, stared into the dark Northern void, but no aurora. Nada.

Somewhat disheartened, we trudged home to the hotel, walking about a mile through the cold suburban streets of Seatac. We changed our reservations to leave the next morning.

Looking back, I think I made one big mistake in our viewing plan. Every online resource says to avoid city light pollution. I ignored this advice, thinking that the skies would belit up brightly by the aurora. As I explored the actual measurements of light pollution, I found maps like this.

There we were in a sea of light pollution, looking north through the worst of it. Not surprising we couldn’t see the Northern Lights.

All in all, I’m glad we took the chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We had an interesting weekend and learned a few things.