The Northern Lights

May 15, 2005 (more photos here)

All photos are in order of when they were taken - starting from when it was just dark on the evening of May 14, to when dawn started to brighten the eastern sky in the morning. Most of my photos were taken looking east, south and west, and few to the north as the auroral oval shifted south for much of the evening (specifically, when the display was very bright).

The photos in the last half are much brighter and show more color than those in the first half. Also, I like the use of a digital camera. I could see results right away and continue to photograph that scene if I liked it.

Left photo - 22 seconds at 10:46 p.m.  -  Right photo 21 seconds at 12:00 p.m.

The "impact" hit the earth about 9:30 p.m. local time. I was set up to photograph at 10:30 p.m., when it would have been dark enough to see the northern lights. However, nothing showed for the longest time. I thought, "is this show a dud?" However, about 1 p.m. things started to pick up.

By the way, all photographs taken with a Pentax ist D digital single lens reflex camera, Sigma 20 mm lens set at 1.8 aperature, average white balance, 800 speed, high quality jpeg - and of course, a tripod with cable release shutter. One thing I forgot to do was take off my skylight filter. If you look at the middle of each photograph, you might see some rings ... oh well.

Looking east-northeast. 15 seconds at 1:15 a.m. The red wasn't bright visually - it was more of a faint red. However, I knew just by looking at it that it would be a bright red on the camera.

Looking east-northeast. 14 seconds at 1:16 a.m.

Looking east. 6 seconds at 1:23 a.m.

Looking east. 7 seconds at 1:28 a.m.

Looking northwest. 6 seconds at 1:32 a.m.

Looking west-southwest. 6 seconds at 1:33 a.m.

5 seconds at 1:55 a.m.

Looking southwest. 7 seconds at 1:56 a.m.

3 seconds at 1:59 a.m.


I went inside the house to catch some sleep, but I kept getting up every 15 minutes or so to check activity (okay, so I was a little wired). About 3:00 p.m., I looked out the south window, saw that the lights were active, and decided I wasn't going to get any sleep anyway - and so I went out to take photographs. And I'm glad I did as things picked up even more!

Looking south-southeast. 9 seconds at 3:15 p.m.

Looking southwest. 6 seconds at 3:16 p.m.

The southern lights!

This scene shows the northern lights entirely in the southern sky as the auroral oval shifted south of my location (not a common occurrence - but it does happen during the strong shows). If I had taken a photograph looking north at the same exact time, it would have shown just a dark sky with no northern lights. Looking south-southeast. 5 seconds at 3:19 a.m.

Looking south-southwest. 4 seconds at 3:20 a.m.

5 seconds at 3:22 a.m.

Looking south-southeast. 6 seconds at 3:23 a.m.

5 seconds at 3:27 a.m.

4 seconds at 3:27 a.m.

Looking south-southeast. 4 seconds at 3:30 a.m.

5 seconds at 3:31 a.m.

Looking southwest. 9 seconds at 3:31 a.m.

Looking south-southeast. 6 seconds at 3:33 a.m.

10 seconds at 3:34 a.m.

Looking east. 7 seconds at 3:35 a.m.

6 seconds at 3:35 a.m.

5 seconds at 3:36 a.m.

7 seconds at 3:36 a.m.

Looking west. 7 seconds at 3:37 a.m.

10 seconds at 3:37 a.m.

Looking east-southeast. 7 seconds at 3:39 a.m.

Looking west. 7 seconds at 3:40 a.m.

Looking west. 4 seconds at 3:42 a.m.

A dragon?

Don't ask me how I captured an outline of what looks like a dragon. This is one photo that I will use if I ever give a presentation on the northern lights to young elementary students. But then again, I might scare them if they think there is a dragon in the sky at night. :)   Looking west. 4 seconds at 3:48 a.m.

Looking east. 5 seconds at 3:49 a.m.

3 seconds at 3:51 a.m.

3 seconds at 3:52 a.m.


The show weakened some, and I thought that I would get up just as the light in the eastern sky would start showing. However, I forgot how early that it gets light out (we're one month away from the longest day of the year), and so got up later than I wanted. I still took some photographs. The northern lights weren't very bright, and so it was difficult to get good photos. Some examples follow.

Looking northeast. 5 seconds at 4:45 a.m.

Looking north. 6 seconds at 4:49 a.m.


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