If you were anywhere north of, say, whatever latitude it is that the Pennsylvania’s northern border sits on, you were under instructions to get outside and look at the northern sky because the sun was blasting out magnetic particles that would result in potentially spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis, or more commonly, the “Northern Lights”. The last time I saw a truly stunning display of the Aurora was back when I was in college; a bunch of us were inside doing whatever and another friend bursts in and says, “You gotta come outside and see this!” It looked like the entire sky was a blue, green, and red swirl of tie-dye. I’ve never forgotten that.

Last night’s Aurora was much more muted, at least where I live; I didn’t make any attempt to drive out into a darker spot, and while my own street is quiet and not super brightly-lit, directly north of my street is a two-mile-long stretch of car dealerships, which are brightly lit. But I went out around 9pm and looked up .The sky was clear (maybe a Karmic make-up for getting screwed on the eclipse?), but there was still some night-glow from the car dealerships to contend with, and initially I thought, “Nope, no Aurora here.” The Big Dipper was directly overhead, and the Moon was a lovely sliver as it is just starting to wax again. I thought about coming back in, but I stayed out just long enough for my eyes to adapt a little, long enough to see a few wisps of cloud directly overhead, making an interesting radial pattern. I’d never seen wisps of cloud in that pattern before, and they were actually shifting as I watched them…and that’s when I realized that I was actually looking at the Aurora Borealis.

A forever-lesson there: when going outside to look at the night sky, always wait at least five minutes. Give your eyes time to adapt!

I took a few photos with my phone, using the “Night” mode, and this one turned out best after some editing in Snapseed. I’m going to try a couple of my other shots later in Lightroom to see what I can do, but the Samsung S21 Ultra’s night mode did come through for me. I made no attempt to use my Lumix FZ1000ii for this event, as I didn’t want to break out the tripod and all of that jazz and I haven’t done any research as to what settings one needs to use to capture the Aurora. But that’s fine! Photographers like to say that “The best camera is the one you have with you,” and in this case, it was my phone.

The Big Dipper, shining through the Aurora Borealis. One of its stars isn’t bright enough to overcome the Lights.

This entry was posted in On Exploring Photography, On Nature, On Science and the Cosmos, Photographic Documentation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Aurora

  1. Roger says:

    There was a piece on Stanley Whitney for CBS Sunday Morning this month.

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