Night of the Northern Lights – #3

Aurora with Blue Curtains #2 (May 17-18, 2013)

The memorable night of Northern Lights ended with a final outburst sending blue curtains into the dawn twilight.

This is a frame from May 17-18, taken near the end of my time-lapse sequence, when the aurora kicked up again in intensity and shot towering blue curtains into the northern sky. The pink glow of dawn tinges the northeastern sky, bookending the sequence of 1200 frames and 27 gigabytes of images. Good thing I had a large capacity memory card!

Each shot was 11 seconds at ISO 1600 to try to freeze the moving curtains while still maintaining a good level of exposure.

Here, lights from a passing car at 3 a.m. illuminated the old barn.


As a postscript, I also note that this was my 300th blog post since beginning The Amazing Sky in February 2011. I hope you’ve enjoyed the views of the sky I’ve been able to publish over the last two years.

– Alan, May 18, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

Night of the Northern Lights – #2

Aurora in Twilight #1 (May 17-18, 2013)

You know you are in for a good night when the aurora appears even before the sky gets dark.

I shot this in the evening twilight, as the curtains of Northern Lights began their dance in the dusk. Light from the quarter Moon also illuminates the scene. It was a mad rush to get the camera set and aimed to begin shooting. I was also looking after another camera that was shooting a dolly-shot time-lapse of the barn.

For this image I used the Canon 60Da and Canon 10-22mm lens at the widest setting. Even that was not enough to take in the whole of the display that was covering the sky.

– Alan, May 18, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer



Night of the Northern Lights – #1

Aurora over Old Barn Looking North #1 (May 17, 2013)

What a night this was, with a display of Northern Lights dancing across the sky as soon as it got dark. They danced all night.

I set up May 17 at my neighbourhood rustic farmstead for a night of time-lapse shooting of the old barn in the moonlight, but knowing an aurora was likely. My iPad app beeped and alerted me to that possibility only an hour or so before sunset, letting me know a storm was underway. And sure enough, as soon as it got dark, there were the curtains of green dancing all over the blue twilight sky. This frame is from 1200 I shot in a dusk to dawn time-lapse movie. It is from early in evening, with a pink glow of twilight still fringing the northwest horizon.

What marked this display was the blue and purple curtains, with those colours only really apparent in the camera images. I think those tints come from sunlight hitting the auroral curtains high in the atmosphere where the Sun is still shining. At this time of year the high atmosphere never gets dark and is always lit by sunlight streaming over the pole.

More images to come!

– Alan, May 18, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

Milky Way and the Northern Lights

Aurora and the Milky Way (May 6, 2013)

The Milky Way appears from behind the colourful curtains of the Northern Lights.

This was the scene last Saturday night, into the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning, May 5, as the summer Milky Way rose in the east while a display of aurora  played across the northern sky. The Northern Lights weren’t particularly bright this night, but the long 2-minute exposure I used to bring out the Milly Way recorded the aurora with colours and an intensity only the camera could see this night.

The green is from oxygen glowing in the lower part of the atmosphere, though still some 80 km up, where only rockets and high-altitude balloons can fly. The tops of the auroral curtains are tinged with the pinks from another type of oxygen emission possible only at the very top of our atmosphere, where molecules are few and far between and what’s left of the air that surrounds us meets the vacuum of space some 150 km up.

From Earth it’s hard to visualize just what we are seeing when we look at display like this. But check out some of the Aurora videos at  NASA’s Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. You’ll see time-lapse videos taken from the Space Station as it flies by and through the same types of aurorae with green lower bands and pink upper fringes, beautifully captured  floating high above the Earth in vertical curtains reaching up into the blackness of space.

– Alan, May 8, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer


The Easter Aurora

Aurora (March 29, 2013)

Here’s a celestial gift for the Easter season – a display of northern lights on Good Friday.

It wasn’t a particularly clear night but in this case the clouds added to the photos. In one direction I was shooting the Northern Lights to the northeast, while to the west at the other end of the yard I was shooting the winter sky setting, plus having a quick look at Comet PANSTARRS. It was certainly a sky filled with attractions.

Happy Easter to all and I hope spring is finally arriving where you live – assuming you are a northerner!

– Alan, March 30, 2013  / © 2013 Alan Dyer


Jupiter Rising

Look east now late at night and you’ll see Jupiter rising amid the stars of Taurus.

I took this shot a week ago from my rural backyard on the last clear night I’ve had. Remarkably, I had  bought a new camera – a Canon 60Da – earlier that day and was actually able to try it out. This is the first real shot I took with it. It shows Jupiter amid the horns of Taurus the bull, and below the Pleiades. A faint aurora lights up the northern sky at left.

There have been some superb aurora displays in the last week but clouds just got in the way.

This is my 200th blog post since I began in early 2011. I hope you have enjoyed the images and will continue to do so. Thanks for looking!

– Alan, October 15, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Big Dipper Over the Badlands

The Big Dipper swings low over the Badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park, with an aurora added for good measure.

This another shot from my very productive night last Sunday out at Dinosaur Park, 100 km east of me. Here the curtains of aurora that made the news that evening shimmer below the iconic seven stars of the Big Dipper, now low in the northern sky on autumn evenings.

Light from the Full Moon provides the illumination. People wonder how we astrophotographers can take pictures of the stars in the daytime. We don’t. We take them at night, letting the Moon light the scene. Its light is just reflected sunlight, so a long enough exposure (and in this case it was only 8 seconds) records the landscape looking as if it were daytime, complete with blue sky, but with stars – and this night an aurora – in the sky.

– Alan, October 2, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer