Northern Lights – February 1st, 2015

Posted by lwpetersen | February 8, 2015 | aurora borealis, photo-blog
Northern lights over forest. Fairbanks, AK
CJ watches the band disappear. The Bz component of the insterstellar magnetic field kept flipping north and south fairly quickly. The aurora faded in and out with it.

The morning of disappointing, disappearing aurora

Jenn and I managed to do a bit of aurora watching in mild(er) temperatures early in the morning on February 1st. I had been keeping my eye on the real-time aurora cameras, and the northern lights seemed to be turning off and on like a three-year-old playing with a light switch*. It would only dance for a few minutes before fading and retreating to the north. We managed to catch one of it’s brief appearances around 12:30 am, but it only lasted 5 minutes before it was barely discernable in the moonlit sky.

We were awaiting the arrival of a fast solar wind from a coronal hole that was due to arrive anytime over the next day or so. Winds like that tend to give the magnetosphere a good kick, creating nice little geomagnetic storms that often mean good aurora viewing for us. The data wasn’t looking to favor us this evening, so we turned in early with hopes for better shows the next evening.

That worked out well for us . . .

Early the next evening a strong band was out, right overhead.

9:30 pm the next evening a strong band was out, right overhead.

A little bit of light cloudcover, but it certainly wasn't blocking the view.

There was a little bit of light cloudcover in the southern sky, but it certainly wasn’t blocking the view.

Aurora shining in the bright moonlight

Dancing in the moonlight

Some low-altitude crimson started to shimmer at the bottom of the band as it slowly started to creep south.

Some low-altitude crimson started to shimmer at the bottom of the band as it slowly started to creep south. You could just tell that there was a lot of energy about to burst forth. And then it went . . .

Northern lights burst from above

Northern lights explode in the sky

Corona overhead

Corona burst overhead

Crimson and green aurora overhead

This crazy display only lasted for about a minute, but it was one of the most intense I’ve seen

Northern lights spiral

“Northern lights spiral”

Aurora borealis dancing over boreal forests

Aurora bands stretching out from over the trees

Northern lights, Fairbanks, Alaska

After the initial eruption the entire sky was filled with dancing bands of aurora.

The main band broke up, but a few bright patches of aurora still hung on.

The main band broke up, but a few bright patches still hung – seemingly dangling in the sky

It really turned out to be a spectacular night. I’m glad Jenn got to see such a show while visiting; Kate and I lived here for a months before witnessing something like that.

More photos from this evening here: 2015-02-01
My northern lights gallery

*This often happens when the Bz component of the interstellar magnetic field flips from north to south – south is good for aurora

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