The Story of an Aurora Chaser

Inspired by Night Sky Myth & Legend

Chasing the Northern Lights
in the Great Lakes region and beyond.

A lifelong nature enthusiast, Melissa F. Kaelin is an Aurora Chaser, writer and community leader. She founded of the Michigan Aurora Chasers, a group of about 60,000 members, and she co-founded the annual Aurora Summit, an international conference celebrating the art, culture, science and photography of the Aurora Borealis. As a NASA Social Media Ambassador, she covered the 2020 launch of the Solar Orbiter, which builds upon the science of the Parker Solar Probe to study and understand our Sun.

She has written about rare natural phenomena for many publications, her Aurora Chasing advice is quoted by International Dark Sky Parks, and she has presented many talks on Aurora Mythology, Aurora Forecasting and Night Sky Adventures. In 2022, she published the book “Below the 45th Parallel: The Beginner’s Guide to Chasing the Aurora in the Great Lakes Region.” Her work has been featured in the press.

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. The morning after 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 realized the Northern Lights could be seen in their full glory, right here in the lower 48 states of 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.

“Aurora chasers are a rare breed. They’re creative, adventurous, open and curious about life’s mysteries. Not to mention fearless!”

From Melissa F. Kaelin’s Blog: “You Are My Tribe”

Fast forward to the year 2022.

Melissa has followed her passion for the Aurora, rare natural phenomena, and the wonders of the night sky to soaring heights. On January 20, 2021, she founded the group Michigan Aurora Chasers after living in Michigan for several years. 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 has stepped up to serve as an admin for several social media groups devoted to astronomy and Aurora forecasting, including Aurora and Night Sky Adventures, which accepts members across the world.

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 with a DSLR camera, Aurora 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.

You Are My Tribe: The Aurora Chasing Community

Social media has changed the game for storm chasers and photographers who hope to capture rare celestial events. One way to get in on the action is to participate in Facebook Groups devoted to forecasting, chasing and photographing the Northern Lights.

Chasing Aurora is an adventure and an art form. There’s so much to learn along the way!

A Selection of Social Media Groups in the U.S.

Aurora & Night Sky Adventures

Open to Anyone in the World
Join this group to share in forecasts, photography and culture of Aurora and astronomical events.

Upper Midwest Aurora Chasers

Regional Focus Based in Minnesota
Join this group to view forecasts posted by admins and real-time sightings of Aurora.

Great Lakes Aurora Shooters

Focused on the Great Lakes Region
Join this group to share in forecasts, photography and culture of Aurora in the Great Lakes Region.

Our Annual Celebration of the Night Sky

The Aurora Summit: Celebrating the Art, Culture, Science and Photography of the Aurora Borealis

The Aurora Summit brings Northern Lights enthusiasts in the mid-latitudes together every year for a conference in the U.S.

Open to all who enjoy the Northern Lights, this annual event is held along the beautiful shoreline of the Great Lakes. The weekend workshop offers presentations about the wonders of the night sky, ranging from photography, astronomy and space weather, to art, culture and mythology. In its third year, the annual conference attracted 117 Aurora enthusiasts from at least eight states and two countries.

More Details

Melissa F. Kaelin is a writer and artist who now resides in Michigan. She has more than a decade of experience leading events, promotion, and social media engagement. Photos by Mike Lewinski, Jonatan Pie, and Sami Takarautio.


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Instagram: @mfkaelin