In my recent column about The Northern Lights, the Magnetic Field and Life, I explored the science and the beauty of our planet’s aurora borealis, one of the great natural phenomenon we are most fortunate to see in the far North (and much less frequently in the not-quite-so-far North.)
I learned the hard way that an IPhone camera was really not up to the job; indeed, the battery froze soon after leaving my pocket in the 10 degrees F cold. So the column had few images from where I actually was — about a half hour outside of the Arctic Circle town of Alta.
But here now are some images taken by a generous visitor to the same faraway lodge, who was present the same time as myself.
Her name is Lisa Braithwaite and she is an avid amateur photographer and marketing manager for two popular sites in the English Lake District. This was her first hunting trip for the Northern Lights, and she got lucky. Even in the far northern Norway winter the lights come and go unpredictably — though you can increase your chances if you show up during a time when the sun is actively sending out solar flares.
She came with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 camera and did a lot of research beforehand to increase her chances of capturing the drama should the lights appear. Her ISOs ranged from 1,600 to 64,000, and her shutter speed from 5 to 15 seconds. The aperture setting was 3.5.
In addition to showing some of her work, further on I describe a new NASA-led and international program, based in Norway, to study the still incompletely understood dynamics of what happens when very high energy particles from solar flares meet Earth’s atmosphere.
Partnering with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA,) the University of Oslo an other American universities, the two year project will send eleven rockets filled with instruments into the ionosphere to study phenomenon such as the auroral winds and the turbulence that can cause so much trouble to communications networks.
But first, here are some morre of Braithwaite’s images, most taken over a one hour period on a single night.