It’s here! In a yearly tradition, I’m proud to present my 2022 Year in Review!! 💃🌎🧡
The past year challenged me in new and confusing ways, but it has become an incredible chapter of my journey.
What gives me the most joy, perhaps, is the sheer number of people I helped to realize their dream of viewing the Northern Lights! As the founder of the Michigan Aurora Chasers, and with the expert actions and advice of an amazing team, we led literally hundreds of souls to witness this rare natural phenomenon for the first time. How inspiring!
Chasing the Aurora — and helping others to experience it — has become a calling. Without further ado, here is my Year in Review!
At a friendly neighborhood joint, I performed original flash fiction at the public community performance event called Fiction 440. It was a blast reuniting with literary and creative friends, and I joined them to perform again in June.
In 2022, I made it out to just two writing performance events and one writing conference as a presenter. But I have big plans for next year! I’m excited to be traveling to Seattle in March to pitch my novel manuscript to literary agents at AWP, the most famous writing conference in the country! Regardless of what happens, I’m excited to share that I already signed up for the conference, and the opportunities there could be absolutely life-changing.
In February, I interviewed for a new position as the Manager of Marketing and Communications for the University of Michigan in the Department of Climate and Space. This dream job is perfect for me, and I began working in my new gig in March. I love the position, and I get to work with the very researchers who are studying climate change and the emerging science of space weather and aurora — on every planet!
So far, I have worked on projects involving at least seven NASA Missions, including CYGNSS and the new Geospace Dynamics Constellation Mission. I’ve also worked on behalf of the U-M Space Institute, the Space Physics Research Laboratory, and the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.
As part of Pay It Forward Day, I presented on writing and revision in an online conference for authors and storytellers. At the event held in honor of the late Mike Resnick. I gave a talk called “Revise to Impress Your Readers,” which is available on YouTube.
I have also started sharing my own writing advice on my website, as a published author, a science writer, an accomplished journalist, and a career writer.
On April 1st, the Aurora fooled us all with an unexpected dance in the northern U.S. that lasted all night! Several experts from the Michigan Aurora Chasers, the group I founded in 2021, teamed up to lead a Live Chase across the state. With Sunspot, I led a group of Aurora Chasers to find and photograph the Northern Lights on Lake Michigan’s shore in Glen Haven, Michigan.
We held many Live Chases this year, bringing advice on space weather forecasting and aurora photography to each event, and we plan to hold many more in the future. Our group is less than two years old, it has already grown to more than 58,000 members, and we are planning to do even bigger things in 2023!
Because many find my Aurora Chasing advice helpful, I launched a blog designed to help people catch the Northern Lights for the first time in the mid-latitudes, especially below the 45th Parallel. My Aurora Chasing blog is the most popular work I’ve created yet, and I add more tips all the time.
I was also interviewed for Aurora Chasing advice by WJMN TV News in the Upper Peninsula. In September, I was quoted on the national news. One of our Michigan Aurora Chasers was featured in The Washington Post in 2022, as well, after I mentored her in the background to help her catch the Northern Lights on a cross-state road trip! Our expert Aurora Chasers have also been featured this year by Interlochen Public Radio and The Weather Channel. I’m glad our group has enjoyed such a phenomenal year!
During the summer, I kept busy in my role hosting events on behalf of the university where I work. I led a university retreat for our department to an Escape Room, designed with storytelling about the Northern Lights! “The Aurora Society” was a huge hit, and this event was the first of many I would host for the department throughout the summer, fall and winter.
On Lake Superior’s shore, I joined other expert Aurora Chasers from Michigan and surrounding states at a #LiveChase in the Upper Peninsula, where we taught beginners everything we know. My portrait was taken under the Aurora during an all-night display, and I saw STEVE (the sub-auroral arc known as the Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement) for the first time. Our event drew over 50 people, many of whom experienced the Northern Lights for the first time that night!
I stayed until the early morning light appeared, joining our hardcore Aurora Chasers on a sandy beach under the stars and walking barefoot in the waves by the light of the moon. What an enchanting experience! Thank you to fellow Aurora Chaser Nate Stovall for the photo!
In the fall, I finally secured a new home in my new city, to match my new position. After playing a game of Michigan hopscotch, I am beyond thankful that I have landed, at last, in the gorgeous city of Ann Arbor.
I haven’t spent a lot of time at home since I arrived, but I have found a new writers group, a fiction performance group, and lots of outdoor adventure clubs to join. I can’t wait to bike the nature preserve right outside my door and kayak the Huron River in the spring!
To celebrate 10 Years of Aurora Chasing, I embarked on a vacation to chase the Northern Lights in Alaska with a special crew. We drove the infamous Dalton Highway all the way to the Arctic Circle, and we admired the Aurora’s dance for 7 out of 8 nights, catching them on both the arriving and departing planes.
For me, this was an adventure of firsts! I joined an elite group of travellers who have been to the Arctic Circle, I photographed the Aurora in stunning detail using an iPhone 14, and I saw Aurora dance in the most vivid colors, even to the south.
Right after I returned home, I watched the most amazing adventure partner of my life leave me, and make her way to the stars. Given the name of “White Star” by a Deaf gentleman, Little Josie Bear passed away on October 4, 2022. From the day I realized she would be a highly intuitive, high energy, high intelligence pet, she became the most precious gift of my life.
Little Bear and I drove everywhere together, getting coffee and treats on weekends before we chased the squirrels, and adventuring across at least a dozen states. We swam in the Atlantic Ocean, touched the waves of every Great Lake in the U.S., climbed waterfalls and the Porcupine Mountains, swayed under the willows of the Finger Lakes, and hiked trails from here to the Aleghany Mountains of Pennsylvania and White Mountains of New Hampshire. Before she passed, I took her on her last swim in the Great Lakes in July, and her last camping trip in September.
My love for my spirit animal — and her love for me — will live on forever.
In November, I joined forces with my awesome team of three to put on the 5th Annual Aurora Summit. This amazing celebration of the Northern Lights was the most epic gathering we’ve ever had, and I was honored to join the leading women in space weather for a rare photo.
On the road trip out, I was able to catch the Northern Lights dancing in upper Michigan, and I nearly caught the Aurora on the drive home as well. We were clouded in during most of the conference, but I met so many amazing people, including the one and only Dr. Tamitha Skov, known as Space Weather Woman.
To top off this year, I published a book with advice for chasing the Northern Lights, which became the #1 New Release in Outdoor Sports and in Star-Gazing on Amazon. I was also featured on WDIV Local 4 News in Detroit, and Click on Detroit. Since the book release, I’ve received numerous invitations to speak. I’m excited to share that I’ll be presenting at the Leland Township Public Library in February and the Fox Observatory Star Party in August, not to mention the forthcoming Michigan Aurora Chasers Workshop — and other events!
As a writer who is not a traditional astrophotographer, all of the Aurora photos I took this year were taken using the new iPhone 14! The photo here was taken in Tok, Alaska, on the night of September 29, 2022, as our adventure crew lifted our eyes to a stunning and powerful display overhead.
Wishing You Light!
As we head into the darkest time of the year, remember that even the night can be filled with light! Now that I have finished my 2022 Year in Review, it dawned on me that I have so many people to thank. I am honored, humbled and fortunate to meet so many inspiring and supportive people on my journey, and especially here in Michigan, I have received the warmest welcome, year to year.
This adventure is amazing because you are a part of it! Thank you for letting my words and creative work play a small part in your life, especially as I lead the Michigan Aurora Chasers, for letting me share my talents and creativity with you, and for being open to seeing the transformative emotion that happens along the way.
I wish all of you the best as you close out 2022, and ring in the new year of 2023. I believe our future holds amazing things in store!
Sending warm wishes full of compassion and light!
— Melissa F. Kaelin: Writer, Artist & Stargazer