Tag Archives: Eagle Summit

A Tale of Two Auroras

Two nights ago I watched the Aurora with someone for whom it would be their last (for awhile), and last night I brought someone out for their first experience of it ever! Both moments are joyous, I believe and this is the tale of two auroras. Both of the nights have been put together into this timelapse which is undoubtedly one of my best to date. I grin at how well the music matches the event and the footage here gives a certain feeling to the urgency of the Aurora.

On September 25th my friend Jonathan and I headed to Eagle Summit (the same place where I timelapsed the solstice) for the aurora. Its location 120 miles north on the Steese Highway provides huge vistas and no light pollution aside from any passing cars. This Aurora was actually Jonathan’s last of his current career in Alaska, so we wanted to make it memorable 🙂

The new moon on the 25th provided inky darkness for a backdrop and the aurora used green and pink ink to sign its signature in the heavens. We were able to enjoy the brilliance of the Milky Way just as much as the Aurora which presented us an excellent show!

Two lone spruce trees stand watch of the Milky Way which spanned across the sky. Dark skies are one of the hardest things to comprehend, but they are BEAUTIFUL!
Two lone spruce trees stand watch of the Milky Way which spanned across the sky. Dark skies are one of the hardest things to comprehend, but they are BEAUTIFUL!
The explosion of activity over Eagle Summit - whoa!
The explosion of activity over Eagle Summit – whoa!
The aurora just starting to build over Eagle Summit, Alaska on 09/25/2014
The aurora just starting to build over Eagle Summit, Alaska on 09/25/2014
The Aurora streaks over a lone pine tree at Eagle Summit, Alaska in the early AM
The Aurora streaks over a lone spruce tree at Eagle Summit, Alaska in the early AM

On September 26th the hype was high that the Aurora would be booming. In fact, I believe there were shows in Minnesota last night, and may be tonight too. Keep your eyes up!

One of the shots I wanted to highlight was this 30 minute exposure of the aurora. I have been trying to pull of this shot for a very long time, and the moonless night provided just the backdrop! The north star is the non-moving point of this shot. I couldn’t be more happy with it!

I must admit this is a shot I have been trying to pull of for quite awhile, and finally think I nailed it! :D This a 30 minute exposure of a low-grade aurora and the north star. The moonless night kept the exposure from blowing out. This is basically how it came out of the camera. Very cool to see the north star stay still and the rest of them move!!
I must admit this is a shot I have been trying to pull of for quite awhile, and finally think I nailed it! 😀 This a 30 minute exposure of a low-grade aurora and the north star. The moonless night kept the exposure from blowing out. This is basically how it came out of the camera. Very cool to see the north star stay still and the rest of them move!!

I wrangled my housemate Roman to go out for the Aurora with me. He is an international student who had not had the opportunity to see the the Lights before. The show actually burst at 9:30 and presented some great colors including the “watermelon aurora”. To top it off Roman was creative enough to build us a small fire – it was a great night!

This pink aurora is what I like to call the "watermelon auroa" :)
This pink aurora is what I like to call the “watermelon auroa” 🙂
A small fire and the Aurora to keep this group warm. It was Roman's first aurora!
A small fire and the Aurora to keep this group warm. It was Roman’s first aurora!

The Midnight Sun on Eagle Summit, Alaska

There’s an unavoidable fact in Alaska these days: the days are long… really long! The summer solstice is a celebrated event by Fairbanksians and Alaskans in general. For weeks now the nights have been filled with light and bird song, but the coming of the Solstice means above the Arctic Circle the sun does not set. It spins in circles overhead and drops low on the horizon before ascending for another pass around the pole  That’s what I went to see!

Eagle Summit, Alaska is located 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It’s surprising that the sun stays up all day fully above the horizon, but the elevation of Eagle Summit (3,624′) makes the sun refract higher than its actual position of 1.75 degrees above horizon (information from the BLM billboard at Eagle Summit pulloff)

My goal was to set up a long timelapse to capture the day and the swinging sun. The culmination of 13 hours of patient waiting captured the a low lying sun which seemed to go super-nova. Over the course of the day rain showers hung high in the atmosphere and refracted the sun which went from white to orange as it got closer to the horizon. At 2 AM the sun’s path bottomed out, and it began to swing high back into the sky changing back to white.

There was lots of time to explore the summit. Wildflowers were carpeted across the mountain top. Horned Larks and Northern Wheatears were common on the summit, and large marmots were always in vigilance somewhere. Northern Wheatears spend almost 8 months of their time migrating between India and Alaska. They raise their chicks on the tundra before migrating back, which is incredible!

A male northern wheatear watching over his summit at Eagle Summit.
A male northern wheatear watching over his summit at Eagle Summit.
A horned lark sings for females on Eagle Summit.
A horned lark sings for females on Eagle Summit.
A female wheatear hunts for food.
A female wheatear hunts for food.
These marmots were common on the summit of Eagle Summit. They remind me of grizzled old men :)
These marmots were common on the summit of Eagle Summit. They remind me of grizzled old men 🙂

As low sun was captivating – there was nothing else to do but watch it, and enjoy it. I saluted it made sure we were entertained by jamming out “three little birds” (video below) along with some other classic tunes on the Ukulele.

Singing and enjoying the low sun of the solstice.
Singing and enjoying the low sun of the solstice.
Kass and I enjoying the solstice sun at its low point - about 2 AM
Kass and I enjoying the solstice sun at its low point – about 2 AM