Victor Unnone ’23: Alaska, Pollution, and The Northern Lights

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If you asked me what lies at the top of my bucket list at any point in my life, I would have immediately responded by saying “Seeing the Northern Lights”. Even after having the incredible experience of observing them, it remains #1 on that list. It seems that others shared the same sentiment, because, while I was abroad in Denmark in the fall, John Slater ’22, Matt Sampson ’23, and I decided to study light pollution in Fairbanks, Alaska, within the context of the Northern Lights.

After figuring out our itineraries, it was time to begin preparing. If you didn’t know, Fairbanks isn’t the warmest place, and we were traveling there in mid-January. Additionally, Fairbanks experienced a once in a century winter storm, starting around Christmas and lasting three weeks. How lucky we were. Temperatures dropped to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the area was assaulted with snow and ice. We were prepared for the worst, stocking up on wool socks, boots rated to 40 below, and a multitude of hand warmers. Fortunately, the weather had backed off by the time we arrived, only dropping to a maximum of -20 degrees most nights.

Departing from different locations, Matt, John, and I ended up on the same connecting flight to Fairbanks from Seattle, where I saw them in person for the first time since last May.