The aurora began early in the evening on this long winter night. There had been show after show, each more colorful than the last but now, several hours later, was the start of something really special. It was a little past 6:00 a.m. local time and even though sunrise was still over three hours away for me here on Earth, up in near space it was already having an effect.
The aurora occurs in the Earth's upper atmosphere at altitudes ranging from about 40 miles to several hundreds of miles into space. This fact often puts it up above the earth's shadow and into direct sunlight. It is these special sunlit auroras that can be unusually colorful.
The addition of sunlight to an aurora can cause nitrogen molocules to produce rare shades of blue and violet. The presence of these hues can be very beautiful but it is not often seen. Only twice have I seen the blues and only a handful of times have I seen violet. More often, theese colors escape detection from us as our eyes are not very sensitive to color at night. Film though does not have this limitation and it will often show us colors that we did not see well if at all.
This shot of the beginning of a colorful show is looking westward from the Homer area toward Illiamna Volcano, seen at the bottom right.
I used a 6x7 home-built medium-format camera equipped with a 38mmlens and Kodak E100G film to record the moment.
This image is availible in the following sizes: 5x7, 6x9, 8x12, 11x15, and 12x18. It is also availible in an 8x16 vertical crop.