A series of particularly intense solar storms have helped create extremely vivid aurora borealis (northern lights) this past week. Astrophotographers across the upper regions of the Northern hemisphere have gone out to capture the incredible phenomena with the lights being visible much further south than is usual due to the greater intensity of the solar storms.
Saskatchewan based Photographer Jenny Hagan took advantage of the situation and created these beautiful images. She describes to DIYP what it was like to witness and photograph such an event.
“Venturing out from the small rural community of Eatonia, a town of around 500 people in West Central Saskatchewan Canada,” says Jenny, “I aimed to capture the active solar storm through my lens.”
Jenny uses a variety of apps to get solar data and the Aurora oval to determine whether she should go out to shoot. She also makes sure to check clear sky maps to gauge where she is going to set up.
“Just south of the small village of LaPorte, a 15 min drive, I set up by an old 1950’s abandoned farmhouse,” Jenny says. “Sights like these are plentiful here in rural Saskatchewan, the land of the living sky,” she further explains.
“The relics of the past offer up great foreground for the wide-open views of our sky. For me, foreground is key for shooting the sky. It offers up a little subject matter for time-lapses that draw in the eye.”
Jenny set up her Canon 80D on a tripod and shot a 3-second interval time-lapse capturing the lively night sky dancing above her for close to 2 hours. “For this particular event my camera settings were ISO 2000 f3.5 and 10-second exposure,” she says. For capturing the northern lights Jenny advises keeping the ISO lower to keep the grain at a minimum, using the highest aperture the lens allows to let in the most amount of light. For exposure length, she likes to stay around 10 seconds to really capture the dancing of the display of the Northern lights.
But light pollution is an ever-increasing obstacle to photographing the night sky. “The most difficult part of shooting these events are finding clear sky,” she says. “The other key struggle is that with the Aurora the light is a mix between muted light to explosive bright light. So it’s about finding that happy medium to bring out the more muted light without blowing out the brighter lights when it really gets going.”
The solar storms were tipped to have been at least a level G3 and the driving force behind the intense aurora was a pair of coronal mass ejections from the sun. The first blast travelled outward at 782 miles per second, with the second in hot pursuit at more than 1,000 miles a second
“The night sky offers so much to see from our small space on earth,” Jenny says. “Sitting millions of miles away from us the moon, Space modules, Satellites, and stars contribute to the light that breaks through the dark as well as our lady Aurora which makes the night sky one of the most intriguing subjects to shoot.”