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After the fireworks, a celestial light show in Bellingham

The northern lights light up the sky as seen from Taylor Dock in Bellingham on Wednesday night. Photographer Morgan Henry used a 10-second exposure to capture the phenomenon.
The northern lights light up the sky as seen from Taylor Dock in Bellingham on Wednesday night. Photographer Morgan Henry used a 10-second exposure to capture the phenomenon. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A fireworks show to welcome back students to Western Washington University Wednesday night had nothing on the celestial show later that evening.

The aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, lit up Whatcom County skies late Wednesday.

Morgan Henry, a professional photographer in Bellingham, watched the phenomenon at Artist Point the previous night and was determined to capture it with her camera. She took her gear to Taylor Dock at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and saw a faint green ban along the horizon.

“I moved down to the middle of the pier because I thought it would be a cool angle,” she said. “I looked up and the sky just lit up green ... and the northern lights are dancing across the sky. We were standing there awestruck.

“I was just snapping pictures and could not believe what I was seeing. It was about two minutes of pure insanity.”

The light show also lit up Twitter and Facebook the next day with photos from those fortunate enough to see it worldwide.

A website called Aurora Service predicts how far south the lights can be seen and when the shows are at their strongest. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also tracks the phenomenon. And a smartphone app called Aurora Alerts is available for iPhone and Android devices.

Named after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, the lights are usually seen at high latitudes and are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun that enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen.

A fireworks show from the Paint B'Ham Blue for WWU event on Wednesday, Sept. 27, in Bellingham.

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