Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Green Lights of Winter

Aurora high above my Mosley TA-34-XL
One of the most jaw dropping and amazing sights in my opinion, is watching the aurora dance overhead.  I'm not a late night person but I am an early morning person. Luckily, even on the weekends I find it hard to sleep in. I think I acquired that from my mother, who was always up before the chickens!

I knew from watching several of the solar websites that the solar wind was due to increase which meant that there was a likely going to be a chance for the night sky to take on a colorful display. That with the fact that the sky has been pretty clear for the last few days had me keeping an eye outdoors. I was up at 0400 local time and as I peered out the window, it was obvious I needed to grab my camera and tripod and head outdoors.

Beaming & Lights
Our 13 year old beagle heard me up and about and decided she wanted to head outside herself. Not to gaze at the heavens above but for other reasons. With the 14 degree temperature, her trip outdoors was short lived and she headed back indoors and back to bed. I grabbed my gear and headed out myself and began photographing the aurora as it danced overhead. 

We live in a quiet neighborhood on the lake and I gazed at the aurora while I listened to owls and coyotes in the distance. There was no wind (unusual for us) and it was extremely still, almost to a point where you could hear the aurora dancing overhead. Winter is dark and cold in Alaska, but watching the aurora overhead warms the heart and soul. When I lived in Northern Ohio, I saw and photographed the aurora several times. It was always by watching north and rarely overhead. Here in Alaska, the aurora is directly overhead and at times so bright, it paints the snow covered landscape the same beautiful colors.

Wonder Above
We have the ability to know when the aurora will be visible and the effects that it has on radio communications. During the peak of the solar cycles, the aurora provides regular entertainment and wonder. I can only imagine how people reacted many years ago before science and technology took most of the mystery out of auroral displays. 

So even though the sun was on the other side of the earth, glowing brightly and warm, it was also helping the sky glow bright green overhead in the morning darkness. Winter is only getting started and we have many long, dark and cold nights ahead. With a regular display of such a wonderful phenomena, winters are a bit more tolerable. It's much easier to view and photograph the aurora at 14 degrees above zero rather than 30 below zero. With that said, no matter how cold it is outside, if the "lights" are out, then so will I. Winter is a very expensive time to live in Alaska but at least this entertainment is totally free!  

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