Now that’s a nice aurora – display still cooking Weds. a.m.

A striking display of parallel rays in the north around 10:45 p.m. While the beams were clearly visible with the naked eye, the red tops showed only in the camera time exposure. To the eye, all rays were pale green and white. Credit: Bob King

Sleep calls but not before I share a photo or two of tonight’s northern lights. The aurora was active early around 8 p.m. CDT but then faded back to a thick, quiet arc for nearly two hours. Suddenly at 10:30 p.m. life came back into the display when the bottom of the arc “lit up” in bright, pale green rays. They shot up one after the other across the lower half of the northern sky to create a series of beautiful light pillars.

More lovely, active rays that grew from a bright green arc near the northern horizon. Details: ISO 1600, 25 second exposure, 24mm at f/2.8. Credit: Bob King

Even at midnight I see the aurora remains active with a low arc and moving glows low in the north. Activity’s been strong, and I suspect anything can still happen over the long night.

Hope you got to see it.

Earlier Tuesday evening the moon joined Venus in this picture taken over Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge and Lake Superior. Credit: Bob King

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

29 thoughts on “Now that’s a nice aurora – display still cooking Weds. a.m.

  1. Bob, where were these pics taken??? We’re up here from FL, hoping to see the northern lights, but no luck so far (here in Duluth or on Lake Superior in U.P. of Michigan. We drove up to Two Harbors tonight, but didn’t see anything.

    • Linda,
      These were taken about 10 miles north of Duluth. The key is getting out away from the city glow and just hangin’ out to wait. For at least two hours last night all I saw was glow in the north – nothing special, you’d think it was just city lights in the distance. Then it erupted into a fine display with lots of rays. By 11:15 those were gone and it was back to a glowing arch with occasional small rays.

  2. Hey Bob,

    I’ve been checking your blog almost daily for the last several months, I think it’s terrific.

    I always enjoy seeing your pictures of Auroras. Can you tell us what exposure and ISO you usually use for taking them.

    I’ve recently been fortunate to see Northern Lights twice within a week – first in northern Michigan and yesterday close to home in northern Illinois. Those were my first experiences with Aurora. Pictures came out nice (mostly 15mm crop censor wide angle, f/4.5 for infinity, ISO 200), but I struggle with sharpness and the time of camera processing (mostly around 90 sec exposures, takes time before I can take another pic …). I tried ISO 400 too to shorten up the time. Any advice here?

    Also, I hear there may be another CME hitting the Earth today. Did you hear anything about it? Or maybe it already arrived in the morning? Thanks a lot!

    • Michal,
      Thanks for writing and I’m glad you like the blog. I usually use ISO 1600 for dim auroras and 800 for bright ones. Exposure range from 15-30 seconds at f/2.8. To find the infinity point for your camera so you can always have the aurora in focus, point it at either clearly-defined clouds or the moon and use autofocus. When those objects snap into focus, notice where the infinity symbol (sideways 8) is on your lens aperture ring. Next time you shoot aurora, put the camera in manual focus mode and turn the ring to the infinity spot.
      The reason it’s taking so long between exposures is because you’ve got noise reduction “On” in your camera. Go to the menu and turn off noise reduction and you’ll get instant turnaround. The trade off’s not bad – a few occasional red or blue pixels.
      As for those CMEs – they’re not directed at Earth, so no blasts are expected today.

      • Thanks a lot for the info ! Next time I will try with noise reduction turned off and a higher ISO.

        I was wondering, do you always see only the green color with Auroras with a naked eye ? Does it get really colorful sometimes in the sky ? The first time I saw it, in northern Michigan, I could see a tiny little bit of red, but very dim. Yesterday it seemed all green, although both times it showed nice red color in the pictures.

  3. Hey Bob…we had a few low lying aurora, up here in Thunder Bay…nothing that spectacular though. I know that the camera probably picked up more than you could see. Nice shots. Kp still at 3…will need to look again tonight!

  4. We’re going to try again tonight!!! We drove north using the GPS and ended up on some dead end roads so we could get away from all city lights, but still nothing..although we did see the glow in the sky, but I want to see the whole show!!! If you see some tonight would you be kind enough to give details where you are so us “Southerners” can witness this phenomena!!!

  5. Hi Bob!

    We’re planning to visit Duluth this weekend. Would you know if there is still a great chance to observe the auroras this saturday?

    Thanks so much and great blog!

  6. Do you have any photos of the Aurora Borealis with the moon in it? My wife saw it in the newspaper, and liked it. I would like to purchase a copy for her.
    Thanks
    Whskyjck

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