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Aurora Borealis

“The Northern Lights”

A Spectacular Northern Lights Display
Photographer's Notes
Other Aurora Resources

A Spectacular Northern Lights Display

11 April 2001
Gleason Point
Perry, Maine

Being in the northern climes, the Quoddy Loop is frequently visited by the Aurora Borealis during periods of Solar flare activity. Such activity runs in 11-year cycles, and 2001 was about at the peak of the cycle. Solar flares throw minute particles away from the sun at tremendous speed, typically reaching the Earth's magnetosphere around 2 days later, and frequently resulting in the Northern Lights being visible here!

As has been witnessed in 2013, it is possible for the Aurora to produce eerie sounds as the particles interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, generating very low frequency radio waves that can vibrate objects (pine needles, hair, even stacked dishes!) near the observer! (See Other Aurora Resources, below.) Also, the Aurora’s magnetic forces can be so powerful as to render satellite communications equipment and Earth-based transmission lines out of commission.

While photographs of the aurora can be dramatic, they are typically quite dim, and can’t be well seen — if at all — in areas that have ambient light from streetlights, porchlights, etc., or when the moon is visible. During auroral displays, it is best to go to an area that has no ambient light — generally some place out in the country that has no outdoor lights and has an unobstructed northern horizon.

Since the human eye’s retina forms images via light-sensitive rods (black & white vision) and cones (color vision), and since the cones are less sensitive to light and auroras are relatively dim, we tend to see more in black and white during auroral displays, making the aurora seem to appear to be mostly white. Some people, however, may be able to more easily distinguish other colors.

Long exposures on camera are able to capture more of the existing colors in the displays than the eye can perceive them; thus, photographs of the aurora can be much more colorful than seen in person.

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Photographer's Notes

Both images — the horizontal one showing the aurora’s western extremity and the vertical one near the eastern extremity — were photographed on film at around 10:00 pm EDT / 11:00 pm ADT on 11 April 2001. More than half of the sky was consumed by the aurora, which pulsated repeatedly from the horizon to just beyond the top of the sky. Long pulsing spikes accompanied waving curtains of light.

Technical Information
Film Fuji Superia 200 ISO print film
Camera Canon EOS-1 on tripod
Lens Canon EF 35 - 80mm zoom at 35mm
Aperture f/4
Exposure 2 minutes

The two-minute exposure time and the spin of the Earth caused the stars’ images to streak slightly — less so near the North Star — while lights on land across the bay in the vertical photograph recorded as unstreaked.

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Other Aurora Resources

The Auroral Observatory in Norway http://geo.phys.uit.no/
Space Weather http://SpaceWeather.com/
Space Physics & Auroras http://www.tp.umu.se/forskning/space/
The Auroral Page http://www.geo.mtu.edu/weather/aurora/
NOAA Solar Forcasts http://www.sel.noaa.gov/forecast.html
The Aurora Monitor Project http://www.keteu.org/~haunma/aurora/

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Copyright Notice

Photographs by Robert Godfrey © 2001 Old Sow Publishing

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