The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) are one of natures most incredible phenomenon’s, caused by energized particles sent from the sun that interact with earth’s magnetic field in this spectacular way. This week I made a solo trip up north to hopefully catch a glimpse of the lights, due to limited darkness in the north, “Aurora Season” commonly from late August to early April is the best time of the year to visit the auroral oval.
Day 1: Goose Lake, Manitoba 54.4°N
After two days of driving and just over 1,100 miles, I finally arrived at my first shooting location, about 60 miles north of The Pas, Mb. Forecast was clear skies and quiet aurora activity, tired from the long haul up I decided on taking a nap and set my alarm for midnight, due to being so far north it doesn’t get fully dark until around 10:45 PM. I woke up to some of the darkest skies I have ever witnessed, I took a glance to the north and there they were, a small aurora band dancing close to the horizon. I stayed up for a couple hours shooting and then decided to call it a night, little did I know that tomorrow would be a whole different story.
Day 2: Overflowing River Provincial Park, Manitoba 53.1°N
I spent the beginning of my second day up north monitoring data on the wifi at the McDonalds in The Pas, forecasting cloud cover and aurora activity for the night. Clouds unfortunately were going to end up pushing me about 150 miles south of my previous location, I found a prime spot on the shores of Lake Winnipegosis and started setting up for the night. As darkness fell I noticed a faint auroral band showing up and aurora data was supporting a decent display. Trying not to get too excited I waited patiently and the lights kept coming further south.
Before I knew it the lights were almost overhead, with the aurora you have what you call “Auroral Substorms” what this means is that the aurora can be quiet then burst out in activity. Basically it builds up its energy and then releases it in to these substorms.
Day 3: Dauphin Lake, Manitoba 51.1°N
Once again cloud coverage has pushed me even further south. After last nights spectacular show I wasn’t expecting a lot out of tonight, but I was wrong… As the sun set the data was looking promising for another display of the lights. The geomagnetic field was still under the influence of last nights event. Just as the night before an aurora band showed itself on the horizon, the viewing conditions were perfect. Before I knew it I was looking at a display just as amazing as last nights.
Due to worsening weather conditions I decided to call the trip early and head back home to begin editing and get some much needed rest. If you’re interested in seeing the northern lights yourself, you’re not completely out of luck here in Iowa and most of the northern tier states. Occasionally we get strong geomagnetic storms that are visible from here and sometimes even further south. For updates, alerts, and to connect with other aurora enthusiasts from the northern US there is a group on Facebook for just that: https://www.facebook.com/groups/greatlakesaurorahunters Lots of great people that are willing to help with photographing the aurora and how to forecast them! I am also in the process of putting together a video of real time video I shot of the aurora on my trip, it will be posted on the ISCN Facebook page as soon as its complete. Stay tuned!
All of my photos from this trip will be posted to my Flickr account if you’re interested: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157647007313642/