NEAH BAY, Wash. -- A night spent chasing the Northern Lights this past weekend turned into an incredible photo opportunity for an aurora chaser along the northern Washington Coast.
Mathew Nichols was out at the beach near Cape Flattery just after midnight Sunday morning looking for the Northern Lights after word a solar storm was in progress.
"What I experienced during this adventure in the dark was absolutely mind-boggling!" Nichols said.
Nichols said at first, the aurora wasn't much of a show, so he focused his attention on the water. He's become somewhat of a local expert on photographing bioluminescence, capturing many photos over the past several months of glowing algae in the coastal surf.
"I noticed parts of the water were lighting up with green glowing specs," he wrote on Facebook. "I soon realized I was witnessing bioluminescent jellyfish. I had never experienced this before, nor did I have any idea this kind of thing existed on the Pacific coast."
Bioluminescence has a number of purposes
Bioluminescence is when living organisms produce light, so they have the chemistry within their cells, their bodies to have a chemical reaction that involves release of energy comes out as light that we can see, says Michael Latz, a marine biologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography through the University of California, San Diego.
"The purpose of the light can be for attracting prey or searching out prey like a flashlight or attracting mates or defending against predators," Latz said. "Bioluminescence or signaling by light is a really effective way of communicating, and of course, in shallow waters like along the coast, it's something that occurs at night."
The glowing green jellyfish Sunday morning were already quite a sight. But to top it off, Nichols said the Northern Lights decided to make an appearance after all.
"This began a night of absolutely incredible experiences!!" he said. "Soon the Northern lights lit up the sky with bright green and purple pillars, then the biggest meteor I've ever seen went right through my frame!!! I could not have been more lucky to experience all of these incredible phenomena in one night."