This colorful aurora takes the form of a wave rolling over a stand of majestic spruce on a moonless Christmas Eve in the year 2001.
The photo was taken around 5:00 a.m. from about 20 miles east of Homer after the majority of ctivity had waned into a gentle display seenlow across the northern horizon. The sky was filled with faint flickering and pulsing, as is often the case for early morning auroras. Occasional bright rays would shoot up and then make their way across the sky from west to east like searchlight beacons. Their slow, deliberate motion contrasted the rapid and seemingly random motion of the faint and fire-like flickering aurora.
The beautiful coloring is caused by a variety of energetic particles which originate from our Sun. The more energetic particles penetrate the atmosphere down to about 35 or 40 miles high where they stimulate nitrogen molocules to creat the violet seen on the undersides of the greens. The greens themselves are a product of the ionization of oxygen atoms at about 50 to 100 miles in altitude. The reddish hues of the tall rays is also oxygen excited by lower energy particles at altitudes of about 100 to 200 miles. Blue-violets are produced by already-excited nitrogen molocules that receive an extra boost of energy by exposure to direct sunlight high above the Earth's shadow of night. These type of emissions can reach up for hundreds of miles.
I used a conventional 35mm camera with a 28mm wide-angle lens and Kodak E100VS film to record the moment.
This image is availible in the following sizes: 5x7, 6x9, and 8x12