It has been labeled by some as the ‘storm of the season’, and even down in the Lower 48 strong showings of Aurora were expected. It was a true frenzy across much of Canada and the Northern U.S. However, the storm didn’t pan out how forecasters predicted because our magnetic field rejected the onslaught of solar radiation .
I did get a real treat out on Thursday evening when the storm first hit, and it may not be in the way that you think! Jiake is a friend of mine and fellow graduate student. He’s Tibetan and has been in AK for year, but had not witnessed the aurora yet. All that was about to change. His reactions were the real prize of the night!
As sunset hit on top of Murphy Dome the aurora started to show itself. The smudges of green mixed with lingering fall colors were nice – but Jiake was wondering, “will it get better?”. “Yes”, I assured him, “Yes it will”. As evening progressed the auroral symphony started to tune its strings. Beginning to the north it solidified and moved into a broad crescendo of dancing lights, and then falling to pianissimo, the lights went out. But then from the orchestral pit, Double Forte! Overhead, starting to the northwest and spanning across the sky through half-moon, the lights exploded in reds, blues, and green. Above us they shifted so quickly and were so broad that every where you looked seemed like the proverbial greener pastures. Your perception of what was better continued to morph as the exploding lights show raised the bar.
Jiake’s reactions were what made the night the most memorable. He was awe-struck, and the opossum grin on my face was from sharing that moment with him, and remembering the first time I had seen a show like this, only a year earlier. Throughout the night as the aurora flared his favorite expression was “Look over there!! What is happening?!”. Seeing as the aurora is often indescribable as words, ‘what is happening’ seems a fitting way to describe the mysticism of the flowing shades of green. Jiake and I spent the night under the stars and the Aurora, and what a night it was!
Although the huge solar storm has produced no other auroras in Fairbanks for the last few nights, I’m still hopeful for another good show before the storm passes- and that includes possible shows in the lower 48 yet! The forecast is still high for tonight with more activity planned for early in the week.
This gallery is collected on 09/11/2014 as is the following timelapse which goes from sunset to sunrise.