Millions of people are now able to see the Northern Lights first-hand, as smartphone cameras can now see the invisible.

Many years ago, my teammates and I went to Alaska in the dead of winter to play roller derby.

The match itself was what I was most looking forward to, but the chance of seeing the Northern Lights would be a close runner-up.

It was December, the height of the aurora season, but I couldn't see anything. It's not a bright bundle of light. It's not a little green swirl. Nada.

Very disappointed.

After more than 12 years, the light was supposed to come to me this time. On Friday, May 10th, a solar storm brought the Northern Lights to British Columbia.

I headed down Chilliwack's Old Orchard Road (which hugs the majestic Fraser River) and hunkered down with about eight other people with my tripod and full-frame mirrorless camera just before 11 p.m.

Eventually I saw a faint white vertical line heading north. As time went on, more lines appeared, but it wasn't the very bright green or purple that I saw in many photos – not to my naked eye anyway .

However, when I saw the image on the camera's LCD screen, I was astonished. A bright lime green light shot through my frame. Magenta movement filled each image.

Photo: People enjoy the spectacular Northern Lights show in the Fraser Valley

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The Northern Lights seen from Old Orchard Road in Chilliwack on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Jenna Hawk/Chilliwack Progress)

Our eyes can't see well in low light, so the aurora borealis are usually not very vivid to the naked eye. On the other hand, a camera can capture much more light into a single image than our eyes can see.

If I had brought a professional camera to Alaska, I probably would have witnessed this incredible sight in 2012.

It was later discovered that the reason why the Northern Lights show on May 10 was so spectacular and wowed so many people was because of technology.

The last time we saw this in our area was 20 years ago. The first iPhone was released in his 2007, but it certainly wasn't able to take night images.

But now you can do it with your smartphone too.

Today, millions of people can witness the Northern Lights firsthand. Because they have the tools to see things that our eyes can't see.

Friday night, Mother Nature's show started out dimly, visible only in my immediate surroundings, but slowly but surely the sky began to brighten a little.

People pointed and looked up. By 11:30 p.m., the night sky was definitely taking on shades of purple and green.

And even though the lights were more visible to the naked eye than when I first arrived, the aurora borealis still weren't as spectacular as they were on camera.

The 8-30 second exposure captured much more than what my photographer's eyes saw that night.

I have always considered myself lucky to have witnessed and recorded many events around Chilliwack, but this one was even more so.

And from what I saw on social media that night and afterward, the people of Chilliwack were just as lucky as I was because of technology.

Jenna Hauck is an award-winning multimedia journalist who has been with the Chilliwack Progress since 2000. For more of her Northern Lights photography, check out her slide show online.

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The Northern Lights are seen over the Fraser River on Old Orchard Road in Chilliwack on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Jenna Hawk/Chilliwack Progress)

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