April 25, 2021 – Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis Blog

Looking over the melting North Fork of the Chena River from the Angel Rock Trail
Early evening on the North Fork of the Chena River at Angel Rocks

April 25, 2015 – Aurora from Angel Rocks

This morning was the latest in the season that I have ever seen the aurora borealis. It also may have been the best display I’ve ever seen. I hiked out to Angel Rocks at about 8:00 pm to check the trail conditions and then spent some time finding the spot I wanted to wait. It was still quite a while before sunset, so I walked back down to the car to pack up the rest of my camera gear and some warmer clothes then headed back up. I found my spot and I waited. And waited.

The CME from April 22 arrived earlier than expected at about 3:00 pm Alaska Time, so I was certainly expecting to see the aurora. Midnight finally came and it was still a little on the bright side.

Darkness almost setting in at Angel Rocks.
A few stars appear above one of the granite tors at Angel Rocks at 12:06 am. There is still quite a bit of light on the horizon.

My first glimpse of the aurora came only about five minutes later. A narrow band stretched across the sky almost directly overhead, running from north to south.

Northern lights from Angel Rocks
A faint aurora band appears over the northern sky

This band quickly faded into the twilight, popping out of and back into existence for a few minutes. At 12:44 am the sky started to light up.

The aurora appears over Angel Rocks
Northern lights start to brighten and widen in the southeast over the tors of Angel Rocks | Purchase Print
Aurora at Angel Rocks while still twilight and sunlight on the horizon
The aurora begins to dance over the Chena River Valley | Purchase Print

Since the aurora was pretty quiet, I decided to just take some timelapse footage while waiting. Of course, when the show finally arrived, I was kicking myself for not bringing a second camera and tripod.

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It wasn’t until 1:15 am that there was suddenly an intense brightening in the band on the northern horizon. Some pinks started to show in the band and it developed intense structure!

Watching the aurora from angel rocks
The band brightening in the northwestern sky | Purchase Print

Almost immediately a corona erupted overhead, followed by nearly the entire sky lighting up at once!

Corona display - northern lights directly overhead
A bit of corona overhead with the moon shining below | Purchase Print
Northern lights erupting over the hills
Southern aurora view | Purchase Print
Dreamy view of the northern lights from Angel Rocks
The sky explodes in the beautiful colors of the aurora borealis at Angel Rocks | Purchase Print

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I could barely function. My heart was racing. The aurora was completely filling the sky, racing unfathomably fast. It was difficult to decide where to point the camera, and just as difficult to not fall off the small, granite rock outcropping the camera and I were perched on!

The aurora borealis over angel rocks
Colors over the tors | Purchase Print
The main band strengthens and starts pushing southward
The main band strengthens and starts pushing southward | Purchase Print
Pink and green northern lights over Angel Rocks near Fairbanks, Alaska
More pink over the tors | Purchase Print
aurora borealis
The northern lights easing up after a huge display | Purchase Print
Aurora in the moonlight
A bit of aurora dancing in the moonlight before fading from view | Purchase Print

It was only 8 minutes. I was left speechless. A small band tried to form in the northern sky over the remaining sunlight, but it quickly faded to nothing. Then it was dark(ish).

Lingering northern lights
The aurora briefly reappears to the north before fading completely | Purchase Print

I waited another five minutes, but there was only a very faint pulsating aurora overhead. At the very least it was going to take a long break. I packed up when I realized the sky was starting to get brighter. It was a very short night, but absolutely gorgeous nonetheless. A perfect end to the 2021 winter/spring aurora season. I look forward to the return in August!

The full photo gallery is located here: 2021-04-25. It will likely take me a few days to get all the photos uploaded that I intend to.

All photos taken with gear rented from Lens Rentals. Aurora photos with Nikon D780 and Rokinon 14 mm f/2.8 for Nikon.


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