Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Sky on Fire II

Written without any fatigue setting in, for some reason. Must be an adrenaline high.....

It was a Dark and (Solar) Stormy Night. Stormy with shafts and rays of light streaming from the heavens.

We all knew there was a chance of another auroral display tonight. We were waiting. And then around 10:30pm or so (from Grand Rapids), the wait was over. This time I went out with my brother, taking back roads and such until we finally found a great spot in northeastern Kent County. We ended up off Old Belding Rd on Lessiter Rd, which is on the way to the Grattan Raceway.

The road faced north, so we were shooting right down the middle of it. There were some clouds around to the north, but nothing too bothersome. Most of the action was to the northeast, with not much seen in the way of color except green, and an occasional red and blue. There were curtains, rays, shafts, and some really good pulsing going on.

I of course used my 35mm film camera, and my brother had his Canon Digital SLR. I was a tad pickier this time, and only shot 3 rolls by the time 1:30 rolled around, and it started to wane. Also, we were getting some clouds coming in, so we bailed.

On the way back to civilization, I noticed it was picking up again, but not very strong. We got to my brothers' place, and I jumped in my car to get home. On the way down the E. Beltline (I know those of you not from around here have no clue as to these roads, but it's my story!!!) I could actually see in my rearview mirror that it was flaring up again, so I turned east of Knapp St and headed for darker northern skies. I finally found a place a few miles down the road with a good northern horizon, and set up the camera again.

Oh… My… God. The curtains! The pulsing rays!! The pulsing shafts of light as they flickered up the magnetic lines of force to the corona. I was seeing pulsating shafts from the south!! All of them converging near Orion, forming another spectacular corona. I shot, moved the camera, and shot again. Always looking for the best display, and ever mindful to watch for composition (at least I was keeping my photographers' hat on during this), I shot frame after frame. At one point I was going to leave, as it was dying again. But as I put my camera in the car, it flared up to the point I HAD to get set up again; another roll of film in the camera. I finally stopped around 3:00, as it was dying down, and also because I knew if I didn't force myself, I'd shoot until I ran out of film. And I wanted to shoot the Moon/Venus/Jupiter this morning.

Fortunately after packing up and driving home, it was calm enough that I didn't want to shoot the aurora anymore. I'm now here sitting downstairs, not even tired. Writing this and waiting until I can go out and shoot the moon, etc. This will be the finish of the sixth roll of film tonight, and they will be at the lab by 7:00am.

In all my years of observing the aurora, I've never seen such intense pulsating effects. Also, the coronas (all 5 I counted) had more detail in them than I had ever seen.

Bring on the next one!! I'm waiting!!

Addendum: After two days and nearly seven hours standing near various roads in the county, not once did the Sheriff show up.:)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Fire in the Sky!

As I type this I can still see the aurora blazing away outside my window.

I got the alert around 7pm, and took off for the big "M" because I didn't have any film. But even from Meijers parking lot I could see it great. Very green.

After calling nearly everyone I know to inform them about the aurora, instead of heading out to the observatory I instead headed north to the intersection of Fruit Ridge and 6 mile road (a few miles north of Grand Rapids. I perfect northern horizon over a corn field, with no lights to the north. You could see the glow of Grand Rapids to the south, and a bit of Muskegon to the northwest.

There were clouds. Lots of them. But, they were lit from behind an eerie green color from the aurora. But we stood around for a little bit, and the clouds began to part. In fact, there were some great views of the aurora with the clouds around.

We had reds, greens, purples; rays, spikes, shimmers, coronas, jets - the whole works. It started to die down around 10.30, so we packed up and left. I had shot 5 rolls of film.

It's going to be there all night, and might erupt again. And there's a chance for the next few days as well.

This was amazing, but I will give it second place to the aurora of November 5, 2001.