Lighthouse project pitches northern lights to Yellowknifers

Foreigners come to Yellowknife in droves to take in the aurora borealis, but a new project hopes to convince locals to start appreciating thephenomenon a little more

Astronomy North is hoping to get Northerners more excited about the beauty of the aurora borealis by installing mini-lighthouses around Yellowknife to let locals know when conditions are ideal for a light display.

Up to 15,000 people from outside the territory spend between $3,000 and $5,000 apiece to come see the northern lights around Yellowknife every year, the numbers suggest.

But while they're a big draw with foreigners, locals tend to take them for granted. Don Morin owns Aurora Village, a company that takes people on late-night trips to the outskirts of the city to view the lights under ideal circumstances.

"Northerners, including myself, who grew up here, kind of take those things for granted," Morin says. "And people, when they travel halfway around the world to see something, and they see it, they're pretty amazed and they're pretty excited about it."

The Northern Lighthouse project will see five of the devices installed around town and light up when conditions are ideal.

While they're aimed at getting Northerners to take advantage of the opportunity, there's already a subsection of locals that is keenly aware of them.

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"Photographers who make a living photographing the aurora have to be enthusiastic," Yellowknife photographyer Pat Kane says. "You have to be willing to go out in the dark when it's cold. Something might not even be happening. It could cloud over. So there's a real passion with people who photograph the aurora."