Birthday Addendum: Northern Lights and Dr Who

by 24britishtvMay 11, 2024, 7 p.m. 22
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Posted on May 11, 2024 Posted by John Scalzi 15 Comments

I managed to get through 55 years of life without ever having seen an aurora with my own eyes, not for lack of interest — it’s been a “bucket list” goal of mine since I was a kid — but because of lack of opportunity: I live almost directly on the northern 40 parallel, which is pretty far south for Northern Lights (and extremely far north for Southern Lights), and before that mostly lived even further south than that, in urban environment where the night sky was usually obscured by light pollution. Going to see an aurora would take some planning.

Until last night! On my 55th birthday! When there was a solar storm intense enough to push the Northern Lights into the part of Ohio where I am. I and Krissy went out into the yard and there they were, magenta and green and slowly undulating, and perfectly amazing. I got some pictures of it, as did just about everyone who, like me, had rarely if ever seen them for themselves. I took mine with the Pixel phone’s “Night Vision” setting on, so the photos show the lights as more vibrant than they were with my own eyeballs, but even without computational enhancement, they were, genuinely, a sight to behold.

I’ll note that around here, most of the week before my birthday was cloudy and rainy, and this morning is clouds and rain as well. My birthday, however, the skies were mostly clear, which let us see the lights. This is the second time this year where Ohio’s normally cloudy spring skies cleared up for a single day to let me see a (so far) once-in-a-lifetime astronomical phenomenon, the other being the April 8 eclipse. As a friend of mine noted, I have used the “get clear skies” card with the universe twice this year and should not ask for too much after this. Which, fair. And while I know it’s coincidence that a major solar storm happened on my birthday, and that the skies cleared enough for me to see the ionized results from my yard, I’m still going to consider being able to see the Northern Lights for the first time on my birthday as a gift from the cosmos. Thanks, cosmos! It is in fact just what I wanted.

Also on my birthday, a possible name-check on the newest Dr Who episode, in which a very minor character (visible only on a viewscreen) identified themselves as “Gina Scalzi.” Now, I don’t want to read too much into this; it’s entirely possible the name was pulled out of a hat, and also, there is an actual actress named Gina Scalzi (although the character onscreen is played by Susan Twist, who, in one of the series’ small mysteries, appears to be playing more than one minor character through the season, if you include last year’s Christmas Special as part of this season). On the other hand, if ever I were to be getting a shoutout on a television show, this would be a likely one, and in the Anglosphere, “Scalzi” is not exactly a common name.

So… maybe? If I ever run into Russell Davies I’ll ask him. No matter what, it’s nice to hear my last name canonically in the Whoiverse. And, again, on my birthday! That’s even better.

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