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It’s been over a year since I updated my aurora blog. I haven’t been staying up late to photograph them for the most part. Over my first decade in Alaska, I would wait almost every night for them to appear. I still love watching them, but I haven’t had the same enthusiasm to photograph them. Even when shooting at home, it can be a painstaking process, especially when protecting camera equipment from the extreme temperature difference between outside and in the house.
Anyway, that’s beside the point. I took a few photos around midnight last night/this morning. Cat is gone on a work trip for a few days, and the dog needed to go out. While walking across the driveway, the sky was absolutely exploding with color! Of course, the dog took his sweet time, and I didn’t have any of my cameras set up for wide-angle night photography, and I have a nasty cold, so there was a lot of awkward stumbling to get lenses changed and tripods set up. It’s been long enough that I felt a bit out of practice. There were a couple of minutes of fumbling as I attempted to get my focus right.
The aurora was fast! And kind of all over the place. I was pointing south for a while (the photo above), and as it started to fade, I turned around and saw the most brilliant light over the trees to the north.
My stay outside was short-lived, although the northern lights danced throughout the night. It’s probably not a great idea to stay up late in the cold when I’m trying to get over a cold. Plus, my shooting gloves have fiberglass all over them (and inside them) from the weekend when we had to spend a day thawing our frozen water line to the house (a fun treat to come home to after a week with Cat’s family in Virginia). My hands got cold fast. It wasn’t super, super cold, just -20°F (-29°C). Cold enough that it became difficult to operate the tripod and camera in about 10 minutes.
In general, I haven’t been taking a lot of photos lately. It’s a normal process to fall out for a couple of months before getting an energizing kick to get back in. Maybe this was it, maybe not. We’ll see over the next couple of days. There is a chance of good aurora again over the next few days due to fast solar wind emanating from an Earth-directed coronal hole.
These coronal holes are areas of large gaps in the Sun’s otherwise closed magnetic field loops where the charged (and fast) solar wind can freely escape. When that fast solar wind impacts the Earth’s magnetic field, it compresses it and leads to conditions that can cause geomagnetic storms and aurora. If you are interested in learning more, check out my article on how the aurora works here.
While the spaceweather forecast looks good, the Earth weather doesn’t look great for the interior of Alaska. Partly to mostly cloudy skies are predicted for the next few days. Let’s hope they are wrong. If you live in high latitudes, it might be worth staying up late on the first couple of nights in December. This likely won’t be like one of the crazy storms that push well into the lower 48 from coronal mass ejections, but as long as we get a strong solar wind and Bz component of the Interstellar Magnetic Field stays or flips south, there should be an excellent chance to see the lights. For now, here are a few more photos from last night!