In late October 2003 the sun unleashed a pair of solar flares that were amongst the most powerful ever recorded. The flares produced huge CMEs (coronal Mass ejections) - enormous clouds of charged particles ad they were pointed right at the Earth. The arrival of the first CME produced widespread auroras seen in many parts of the world. After a long night of amazing aurora, it was near dawn that I saw the most amazing of all. This was the first time that I had ever seen a vivid blue aurora.
Our night vision is limited in its perception of color with the blue and violet end of the spectrum being the most difficult part for us to see well at night. More often these hues will show up on color film while we might barely see them if at all as it does not have the limitations of our human vision. This morning was a spectacular exception as these emisions were strong enough to see vividly with the naked eye.
Here, looking northwest, we see beautiful tall rays reaching up to overhead above the rooftops and trees of Homer around 6:30 in the morning. It was the light of the approaching dawn that actually gave the aurora an extra boost of energy as the rays rose above the Earth's shadow and into direct sunlight causing nitrogen molocules to produce this intense show of color. This process, known as resonance scattering, only occurs during twilight hours and sometimes while strong moonlight.is present.
I used a 6x9 cm home-built mediuim-format camera with a 50mm lens and Kodak E100VS film to capture the colorful moment.
This image is availible in the following sizes: 5x7, 6x9, 8x12