These drop-down menus link to the top auroras of each year. For 2012 through 2015, click on the year to see a calendar linking to all events for that year.

March 17, 2015 Auroras

Itasca County, Minnesota

I was sound asleep around 2:20 A.M. when my cell phone rang. It was a friend, notifying me that the auroras were out and shining brightly. Bz had dropped to -20 nT, and nobody had received any posts from my on the Great Lakes Aurora Hunters group on Facebook. Indeed, I looked out the window, and the sky was clearly glowing to the north. I paced around to try to figure out what to do about it, then checked the solar wind conditions on my phone. The CME impact from a long-duration, C9 flare had just occurred nearly a day early. Actually, it must have passed the ACE satellite about exactly the moment my head hit the pillow. Initially, Bz had gone far north, but by 1:00 A.M., it had dropped far south, and the auroras came out quickly. I needed to get out there quickly, but I hadn't prepared well for this CME impact.

I was out the door in about 25 minutes, I suppose, and I headed north out of town on Highway 38. The auroral arc to my north was really pretty nice, but I decided to keep on driving until there was a bit of structure or until I got to a nice shooting location. It was either going to be Moore Lake or Orange Lake. Moore Lake required a hike, Orange Lake really did not, and the auroras were already going strong. A couple miles north of town, I started to see some structure, so I though I'd pull over on the shoulder and snap a couple pictures to capture this developing substorm. I'm glad I did, because there were no cars around at nearly 3:00 A.M., and there was quite a bit of red in the auroras. I snapped a few pictures, pulled ahead to the Gunn Park baseball fields and considered setting up there, but since they keep the gates closed after dark, I figured the police might come if I tried to enter. I drove on.

Nice Auroras
The auroras brightened, so I had to stop where I was (on Highway 38) and shoot.
Nice Auroras
Another shot from my first stop on Highway 38.
Nice Auroras
For some reason I like this shot of Gunn Park.

In my typical indecisiveness about where to go, I decided to stop at Pughole Lake to test things out. Yep. Indeed, there were still auroras. Duh.

Nice Auroras
Pughole Lake and the Irish Green ice.
Nice Auroras
Pughole Lake and the Irish Green ice.

Ok, so it's on to Orange Lake. I drove north a few more miles onto Orange Lake Road, which had refrozen so that it wasn't too muddy for driving after the big warm spell late the previous week. I stopped at a boggy creek clearing and shot a few images. The auroras had expanded south and were now over my head. I pointed the camera straight up to the trees above me and shot a short time lapse. The scene to my immediate north was also really nice.

Nice Auroras
A weak auroral corona through the trees.
Nice Auroras
A weak auroral corona through the trees.
Nice Auroras
Auroras over the bog.

On to Orange Lake! I was worried about getting on to the lake due to the ice melting away from the northern shoreline, but that really wasn't an issue. I walked onto the lake and took the first opportunity to set up a camera.

Nice Auroras
Stepping out onto Orange Lake.
Nice Auroras
Pointing east-northeast for my main time lapse of the evening at 4:17 a.m.
Nice Auroras
Much later in the same time lapse at 4:40 a.m.
Nice Auroras
This is closer to the island and looking northeast.
Nice Auroras
Same spot as the previous picture, looking northwest.
Nice Auroras
4:57 a.m.
Nice Auroras
This is at 5:00 a.m.
Nice Auroras
Looking up around 4:42 a.m.
Nice Auroras
Orange Lake.
Nice Auroras
5:12 a.m.  Looks like I won't be able to get back to bed before work.
Nice Auroras
About to leave.  One last shot of the rising, waning crescent moon, Milky Way, twilight, and island.

Back to Auroras | Home