For the majority of my life, a peculiar memory has remained a mystery…
Our family had moved to the southernmost part of town…very rural.
West of Beltline Rd_ North of Lakeview Drive.
The acreage just south of our neighborhood was farmland.
Cotton grew in those fields.
Vivid images…people of color picking cotton.
…a crop duster spraying the field as I looked on, from likely…a less than safe distance.
I can’t imagine that being a healthy choice.
Regardless…this mysterious memory took place between 1957 and 1960.
In the middle of the night our mother took us children outdoors. We stood on the porch looking at the night sky.
An oddly greenish hue…very bright
…for our mother to take us outside to witness this event was clearly seared into my less than adequate biological database.
That event remains a mystery.
Fast forward to the present…
I am a fan of SYSK: Stuff You Should Know, a podcast hosted by Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant. While bingeing past episodes during the Covid-19 lockdown, I stumbled upon SYSK (Season 17 Episode 38 “How the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis Work”). That might explain the phenomenon I witnessed as a child.
Of course I have been aware of this phenomenon and actually witnessed the aurora borealis years ago while on a trip to Iowa of all places…but this episode sparked my interest and set me on a path to research the possibility that perhaps this was the answer to the mystery.
On November 28, 1959, the Aurora Borealis was seen as far South as Houston, Texas.
SYSK’s story brought great comfort to me while I listened. It was a perfect explanation for what I had witnessed. The greenish hue lighting up the night sky…well documented.
Below I have listed all of the Aurora Borealis phenomena that took place between 1957 and 1960.
This wasn’t a vague memory of some alien abduction scenario. Whew!!!
Thanks Josh & Chuck…
In the immortal words of “Invader Zim’s Garbage-issue Information Retrieval Unit, GIR”…
“I Love This Show”
January 25, 1957 – Uranium and aurora blamed in plane crash. [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 25, 1957, p. 7].
March 4, 1957 – New awesome lights hang in north skies [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 4, 1957, p. 11].
April 17, 1957 – World radio signals fade [New York Times, April 18, 1956 p. 25]
September 5, 1957 – Aurora borealis stages sky show in Chicago area [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 5, 1957, p. 1].
September 13, 1957 – Rare northern lights display in southland [Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1957, p. 1].
September 23, 1957 – Aurora lights northern sky in city region [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1957, p. 2].
November 6, 1957 – Radio and TV, Sunspots in high gear. Sound of BBC video fills US homes [New York Times, November 6, 1957 p. 71]
February 11, 1958 – Radio blackout cuts US off from the rest of the world. Aurora visible in Los Angeles, Tulsa, Boston, Seattle, Canada and Newfoundland. Voltages in electrical telegraph circuits exceeded 320 volts in Newfoundland. Intense red glow gave way to curtains and shimmering draperies. [New York Times, February 11, 1958, p. 62]. Although not seen over New York, it was so intense over Europe that people wondered about fires and warfare. [New York Times, February 12, 1958, p. 16]. Aurora puts on display in northern skies [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 11, 1958, p. 4]. Skies brilliant in northern lights display [Los Angeles Times, February 11, 1958, p.1]. Aurora borealis again seen here [The Washington Post, February 11, 1958, p. A1].
March 29, 1959 – Aurora seen on Long island, 2 hour display observed, radio disruption goes on [New York Times, March 29, 1959, p. 33]
July 16, 1959 – Radio upset by magnetic disturbance [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 16, 1959, p. C9]
November 29, 1959 – Aurora borealis seen in Houston [Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1959, p. A4].
April 1, 1960 – Aurora borealis viewed here [The Washington Post, April 1, 1960, p. A1].
October 7, 1960 – Sky in area is colered by northern lights [New York Times, October 7, 1960, p. 68].
November 13, 1960 – Type 3 solar flare gives North America a rare auroral display. [New York Times, November 14, 1960 p. 14]. Display of northern lights here creates glow [New York Times, November 13, 1960, p. 3]. Solar explosion causes show of northern lights [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 14, 1960, p.1]. Blasts on sun roil earth’s radio waves [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 16, 1960, p. 16]. Aurora borealis proves thriller [The Washington Post, November 13, 1960, p. A1]. AUrora borealis lights up D.C. Area; Resultant calls light switchboards [The Washington Post, November 14, 1960, p. A3].
References: Solar Storms.org