The University of Alaska Aurora Forecasters have issued a report of three solar events; the last of which was a solar flare with a coronal ejection. The particles should begin to interact with the atmosphere within the next hour.
I have loaded up the Dodge with coffee, hand warmers, and camera gear.
I have motored out to clear skies. And I wait.
Midnight and still I wait.
Here is the text from the forecast.
Forecaster Comments: Three solar events occurred on Jan 18/19, 2012. The first two were small and of short duration. The last one was a coronal mass ejection associated with a long-duration solar flare from the northeast quadrant of the Sun. The location is such that the event is not facing Earth directly, but the intensity, duration and development are such that it will lead to increased auroral activity on this weekend.
The shock and the effects should reach Earth as early as 6 am GMT the 21st. That is approximately 10 hours from the time of this message. We should expect K=4 or greater auroral activity starting late on the night of the 20th in Alaska and North America and on the 21st in Russia and Europe.
Now we are dealing with certain immutable laws of physics. If there was a coronal mass ejection, there will be Northern Lights. Just as sure as death and taxes.
And I wait.
It is now 1:00am AST, Orion spins slowly to the south and I wait.
The only traffic in the sky is the occasional aircraft and the slow transit of a planet. We are too far north to see the ISS as she cruises by. The last highway traffic was almost a hour ago. Even the owls have deserted me.
I have one tripod set up and waiting. I have not activated the hand warmers as yet because I have only been out in the sub zero temps long enough to setup and take a few test shots with the D700 and the 28mm f/2 wide angle.
Other than that, I wait.
The forecast has been upgraded from “active” to “extreme”. This higher than I have ever seen it. However, the short term is still “low”.
There has been a faint showing to the north and I made a few images. I had to crank in a whopping +3EV but I got something. At the same time there has been footsteps in the snow several hundred feet to the north near the tree line. Most disconcerting since no eyes are reflected back in the beam of an LED Maglite.
I feel the show is near. A few minutes in the cold causes ice to form in my beard and mustache. The ballhead no longer pivots on the tripod but the ball still swivels in the socket so we are still functional.
She’s teasing me. It will look like a decent display will be starting to form and I will jump out and mount the camera only to have it fizzle out. My fingers got a bit of frostbite on the last go around because the shoe did not want to mate with the clamp. At these temps I don’t blame it.
I had to do a battery swap due to the cold.
Short term forecast is “quiet”.
Absolutely nothing has occurred since the last update. No vehicles. No animals. And no Aurora. She even quit teasing.
I generate more noise than anything else for 15 miles.
We are heading into another sweet spot when “statistically” the lights should show. Why do I get the feeling the event will occur during the daylight hours?
She can’t get rid of me that easy. I have coffee and I’m not afraid to use it.
If not in what’s left of this night, I will be back tomorrow night. The weather is forecast to change and we may lose our clear skies. We shall see.
Meantime, I wait.
Four vehicles have just went by; one of them a taxi. Don’t know where the taxi was going. The next town in that direction is 50 miles. Hope the driver gets a nice tip.
Still bupkis on the light show. Two hours til daylight. But the coffee is still hot and strong. Thanks Pammy!
I still wait.
Long term forecast still “extreme”; short term shows low. Will head for the barn at 7:00. Pulled tripod in to thaw in case of need.
Somedays you get the bear; somedays the bear gets you. Time to up stakes.
Home to sleep til this evening.