When Melissa first saw the Aurora dance,
the light touched her soul.
Now an avid adventurer, Melissa F. Kaelin discovered her passion for the Northern Lights when she was living in Minnesota, just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Early on April 24, 2012, she awoke to a brilliant display of photographs posted across local and national news outlets. She was born and raised in Ohio, and it wasn’t until she reached her late twenties that she understood the Northern Lights could be seen overhead, right here in the U.S.
On that day, Melissa decided she would do whatever it took to view the Aurora Borealis with her own eyes, even at low latitudes. She began studying space weather and aurora forecasting and joined social media groups to learn as much as she could about this rare natural phenomenon. Because her residence was situated in a light pollution desert below the 45th Parallel, she found it extremely difficult to catch the Aurora’s dance for the first time.
She continued to study space weather, hoping to understand the conditions that could reliably create a geomagnetic storm strong enough to detect with the unaided eye. After several failed attempts, Melissa witnessed her first display of the Northern Lights on the night of Oct. 1, 2013 in Taylors Falls, Minnesota.
She also discovered the mythology and legends from the Inuit tribes of North America closely matched her own perception of the Aurora Borealis, which have become an almost spiritual experience in her life. So, she began to research stories of the Aurora and learn Aurora legends from cultures around the world. She has presented on Aurora Mythology and Legend many times at the annual Aurora Summit.
In her first years of Aurora Chasing, Melissa became an active member of the Great Lakes Aurora Hunters, where she was invited to become a social media group admin. She was interviewed for an article in the Star Tribune and featured in an episode of the TV series “Are You MN Enough?” that aired on PBS. About a year later, she was asked to take on the task of organizing the annual Aurora Chasers gathering in the Great Lakes region. Not an astrophotographer herself, she partnered with another member of the group to facilitate the annual event, and she went on to co-host the retreat from 2014 to 2017.
Fast forward to the year 2021.
Melissa has followed her passion for the Aurora, rare natural phenomena, and the wonders of the night sky to soaring heights. She partnered with two devoted Aurora Chasers to launch the Aurora Summit, an annual conference celebrating the night sky that opened to the public in 2017. The unique event draws up to 200 people each year, and it includes sessions on the science, art, photography and culture of storytelling that surround the Northern Lights. She runs the social media accounts for the Aurora Summit on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, posting news, events, forecasts, photography, video and artwork that celebrates Aurora and the night sky.
Fascinated with outer space, Melissa went on to serve as a NASA Social Media Ambassador for the launch of the ESA Solar Orbiter at Cape Canaveral in February 2020. She has published many articles, short stories, and features that center around the night sky, as well as the legends and mythology that have been passed down for centuries. She wrote a novel featuring the mythology of the Aurora Borealis, which is under consideration in the publishing industry, and she is working on two other novel concepts featuring the Solar Eclipse and the Milky Way.
She also stepped up to serve as an admin for two social media groups devoted to astronomy and Aurora forecasting, including Aurora and Night Sky Adventures, which accepts members across the world, and a new group called Michigan Aurora Chasers.
Like many in the community, Melissa finds inspiration in sharing the experience of the Aurora’s dance with others. While she does not photograph the rare phenomenon, it inspires many aspects of her life, particularly in creative writing. She hopes to help more people find, understand, and celebrate the elusive Northern Lights — which continue to be a rare spectacle at low latitudes.