Watching the aurora

2015-08-16

in Canada, Geek stuff, Photography, Science, Space and flight, The outdoors, Travel

Thanks to the intervention of my friend Amanda, I spent the weekend at my friend Sabrina’s cottage on Paugh Lake, near Barry’s Bay, Ontario.

I had high hopes for a clear view of the fading Perseid meteor shower on Friday and Saturday night. Friday night was overcast and raining, though it was still remarkable to be in a place where rain falling on roofs and water, along with animal noises, were the only things audible. I am not sure when I was last outside a major urban area, but there haven’t been many cases since I moved to Toronto.

Saturday gifted us with perfect astronomical viewing conditions: far from city lights, and untroubled by the moon. We didn’t see a lot of meteors, but the sky was so full of stars that it made identifying familiar constellations a challenge. Across the sky, the band of the Milky Way was clearly visible, wheeling above us as the night went on.

Experimenting with some long exposures with my Fuji X100S (and a stepladder and dishcloth as an improvised tripod) I was surprised to see that the vague light in the northern sky came out as brilliant colour when photographed at 1600 ISO with a 30″ exposure.

I ended up spending hours photographing the aurora. There will be high quality images soon (and animated GIF is a terribly low-quality format for something so beautiful), but I wanted to put something up right away that would show the movement of the lights.

You may need to click the thumbnail to see the animation:

Aurora Borealis from Paugh Lake, Ontario 1/3

Aurora Borealis from Paugh Lake, Ontario 2/3

Aurora Borealis from Paugh Lake, Ontario 3/3

Aside from reducing the resolution and converting them to GIF format, these images are straight from the camera, not manipulated with any sort of software.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan August 17, 2015 at 12:30 am
alena August 18, 2015 at 7:43 pm

These are spectacular! I am so glad that you could capture this evening and have a weekend in the country as well.

. August 19, 2015 at 6:18 pm

GEOMAGNETIC STORM: Arriving a full day earlier than expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on August 15th (~0800 UT). The impact triggered a strong G3-class geomagnetic storm, now subsiding.

. August 24, 2015 at 8:17 pm
. November 13, 2015 at 12:50 pm
Milan June 8, 2016 at 10:18 pm

I tried re-making these animations using Google Photos. They’re still not great, but they are a lot better than the GIFs.

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