Tuesday, November 06, 2001

It's Red All Over!!!

Last night, the sky was on fire.

Last night was one of the top ten aurora displays that I've seen around here. Not quite as good as March of 1989, but really close.

At 9:20 I got a call from Peter Chan - Chief Meteorologist at WXMI TV-17 - to tell me there were signs the aurora was starting. Since we (myself, Jeff, and my brother) were at the observatory, we walked outside to see a shaft of blood-red light going up in the northwest sky. That was the starting signal to get the cameras out and start shooting.

And of course, we had to get the word out while shooting. Between firing off the shutters, cell phones were busy: Kendall called all of his friends, while I rallied the astronomy troops - calls to Jake Bourjaily, Tom Slager, Rick Clements, Randy Mergener, Joe Blumm, and even a check in with George Lessens at WZZM TV-13. When the aurora went past the zenith and down to the southern horizon, I even put in a call to Ed Graff in California, Jim Ashley in Arizona, and Andy Harwood in Florida (later I read that the aurora was seen in south Texas, so Jim might have seen it. I don't think Andy did, thanks to Hurricane Michelle).

We shot all around the sky: north, south, east, and west. Even straight up. We were in the aurora it seemed like. At times the stars disappeared due to the intensity of the auroral display. The only thing that spoiled the event was the moon rising in the northeast, but it came up late enough that the most intense displays had passed.

I finally took my last shot at 12:25 am. 4 rolls of print film and 1 roll of slide film. I have the prints back already, and the colors are just as I remember seeing them. Reds, greens, yellows, and - even though I didn't see it visually - purple.

We had almost everything you could have asked for in aurora structure. Rays, arcs, columns, corona. No flaming arcs or streaming magnetic fields though. So in that respect, the aurora of June 1991 is better.

What a night! When will come another?!? (to paraphrase Shakespeare).

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