The aurora has been lighting up our skies a lot in recent nights, in a great sweeping arc across the northern sky.
It’s been a good week or so for Northern Lights, with several nights in a row of fine displays. These images are from one night, taken near home in southern Alberta, on September 2.
The lead image at top shows the display at its best, with the arc of curtains reflected in a nearby pond. The green curtains fade to shades of magenta as they tower into the high atmosphere, as one process of glowing oxygen giving off green light transitions to another emitting red light.
A little later the curtains had changed form, into a more homogenous arc above a set of sharper curtains below that are farthest north. People in northern Alberta or the Northwest Territories would have been seeing these curtains dancing above them.
What we are seeing is the classic curving arc of the auroral oval, the ring of light created by electrons raining down into our atmosphere in roughly an oval sweeping across the continent and centred on the magnetic pole in the Canadian Arctic.
However, at right, you can see a odd detached bit of more southerly aurora, with a dominant red colour.
This is a closeup, showing the characteristic form of these odd “isolated arcs” — usually featureless, often thin, without much motion, and often red.
Later, the arc had brightened and expanded to cross the sky. The above view is looking west from home, with the arc now displaying a mix of pink, white and green.
Here, we are looking up the isolated arc, with the impression of it being a thin sheet seen at an angle, with the bottom green component being closest and the red top being highest and farthest away.
This is the view looking southeast to the strange aurora. For a time it broke up and displayed a “picket fence” formation. And it moved!
Just what these isolated arcs are is a mystery. They have been called “proton arcs,” under the assumption they are caused by incoming protons, not electrons. But while there are such things as proton arcs and auroras, they are diffuse and invisible to the eye and camera in normal visible light. So these features are not proton arcs.
Nevertheless, these odd arcs are not like the usual auroral curtains, and likely have a different origin. But just what is still the object of research. Images by amateur astronomers such as these can help in the study.
— Alan, September 7, 2016 / © 2016 Alan Dyer / www.amazingsky.com
7 Replies to “Sweep of the Auroral Oval”
I plan to share your post in my blog https://hellocreativestimes.com. Since you have enabled sharing on your post, I am assuming that you are allowing others to share this post. However, if you have any objection to sharing your post, please let us know as soon as possible. Thank you.
No, that’s fine. Sharing is OK, as long as the origin of the post is maintained. Thanks!
Yes, Of course thanks. 🙂
Can you give us tips how to photograph the Aurora. I have a basic Nikon D80.
Sure! See my tutorial at http://www.amazingsky.com/free-tutorials.html 30 minutes of tips! Thanks!
You are so incredibly lucky to have this amazing access to the beautiful Auroras. Thank you for sharing your photos to those of us who don’t see the sky like you do…it’s the next best thing.
Hi Lenore — Some of the recent displays have been seen from farther south — Brian and Linda as CNSC last winter saw some from their cottage in Maine. But farther south than the northern US would be rare.