As best as I can tell, there were no forecasts predicting the kind of aurora activity that took place Tuesday night. Aurora Notify and Aurora Forecast both displayed quiet levels of KP1, likely not visible south of Talkeetna. But when Twitter told me to go outside and look up, I grabbed my camera and obliged. I ended up posting on my deck for about two hours.
Photographer Ian A Johnson offered some explanation (or at least a hypothesis) as to how Tuesday’s aurora popped up unannounced:
Why did that happen? I always assumed the high intensity auroral moments were created by extra energy (solar wind) entering the system. In contrary to that, the research conducted by Dr. Akasofu and other suggests the aurora is a circuit. Incoming solar wind is pushed against the earths magnetosphere where it reacts in an auroral sub-storm. If more energy is input into the system than can be output it starts to build up in a ‘secondary circuit’. The extra energy is ,stored and builds up within the atmosphere. When the conditions are right the energy is released in ONE pulse of energy causing the aurora to erupt suddenly. It also explains why eruptions last roughly the same amount of time (1 hour) since a finite amount of energy can be built up.
Or as I compartmentalize it: Magic!
The photos are taken in East Anchorage, flush with no shortage of light pollution — Looking at you, Walmart — compounded by the obnoxious porch light my neighbors never turn off. Ever. You’d think that in in a state with liberal gun laws seemingly modeled after Deadwood, there’d be some provision making it permissible to shoot out porch lights when the aurora is out. Someone should get on that. (Not really.)
As is painfully obvious, I’m not a professional. Sadly, Anchorage doesn’t offer much practice. But the displays Tuesday night were breathtaking, and lasted well into the night.
For some much more impressive views of the Northern Lights in all their majesty, I’d definitely recommend hopping over to the Aurora Lovers facebook page, where absolutely stunning images abound.
Here’s hoping this is a preview of a winter full of Aurora activity — even for city slickers like me.