APPLE RIVER, Ill. — An 18-year-old storm chaser from the suburbs didn’t have to go to far to find majestic beauty in the sky Sunday night.
When Landon Moeller, of Schaumburg, heard he’d have the chance to see the northern lights in the area and not the Arctic Circle, he’d got in his car and headed west for about an hour and 45 minutes to Apple River, Illinois.
“I got to just outside Apple River at 9:30 p.m. I specifically chose this spot because I was actively trying to avoid extensive cloud cover and light pollution to the east towards Chicago and it paid off,” Moeller told WGN News.
The northern lights were viewable in Illinois due to a coronal mass ejection and a minor solar flare happened Friday night, according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
Within about ten minutes, this sight greeted Moeller, who used a Nikon Z6 II to capture the images.
From there, the lights got more intense before a “substorm expansion” from around 11 to 11:30 p.m. — which brought the aurora hundreds of miles south with dancing pillars.
“When the aurora had its massive expansion just after 11 p.m., it moved so far south that we could actually see it while looking south,” Moeller said. “The feeling was of uncontainable excitement, seeing it get brighter and dance overhead in uncountable colors.”
Moeller said he saw eight meteors and was able to capture one with a smoke trail against unbelievable purple and green lights.
At around 11:30 p.m., the substorm began breaking up and the aurora pulsed overhead, Moeller said.
Before Moeller, who studies meteorology at Northern Illinois, left at around 2:45 a.m., he spotted another meteor.
Viewing is expected to diminish Monday night, with only some states, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota, forecasted to have a low likelihood of seeing the aurora.