Posts Tagged aurora

Hackery for my auroral photo pursuits

sssssTrying to figure out if there is an aurora, and if it can be photographed, really requires looking at some different kinds of data. One is the earth’s magnetosphere; how disturbed is it? That’s what causes auroras. That information has to be obtained from the GOES satellites, or magnetometers on the ground (I find the satellites to be a better indicator.) Another is the weather – if it’s cloudy, give up now. Then visibility comes into play – fog will kill the opportunity just as quickly as clouds. You can get that from NOAA (or whoever is your local weather provider if you’re not in the US.) But what if the moon is above the horizon? That’ll kill it too, at least, if the moon is showing any significant crescent. And of course, along those same lines, the sun has to be below the horizon. The moon and sun information can be calculated.

After repeatedly looking all this stuff up, and occasionally forgetting an important issue (like, is it cloudy?) before I drove out to my dark viewing area with my camera gear, I finally decided to pull all the information together into one handy place. And here it is, sized to fit on my iPod’s display, too. Further, since all the data is in one place, I have the underlying engine SMS me if conditions are right for an aurora; also, as long as I keep a browser open to the page, the page auto-refreshes.

The underlying processes keep an eye on things for me, updating their snapshots of satellite data and weather and lunar and solar states every five minutes. So I can be out and about, and if things look hot, I’ll get a text message on my cellphone. How cool is that?
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Aurora time lapse

Aurora time lapse, originally uploaded by fyngyrz.

This is 40 still frames from my EOS50D, taken the evening of the onset of the April 3-4-5-6 geomagnetic storm, all from the same point and with the same camera settings. I used Canon’s 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens, wide open, after manually focusing it on a star. All these shots were taken at ISO 3200, 4 seconds exposure, then combined using the Mac’s movie software and converted from .dv to .mp4 using Handbrake, and from thence to flickr.

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Aurora – Geomagnetic storm bonus

One of the many benefits of living in the northern part of Montana is that from time to time, when the k-index reaches 5 or more, the aurora may extend far enough south for us to see it, and in my case, photograph it. Last night I had the pleasure of shooting over 300 photos of the aurora as it waxed and waned as part of the current intense geomagnetic storm. Here is one of my favorites:


You can click on the above image to see it larger, if you like.

Shooting details: Canon EOS 50D [modified IR response in H? range], hooded Sigma EF-S 30mm ƒ/1.4 EX DC HSM prime [ø62mm] using SRAW2 @ 50%, ƒ/1.4, ISO 1600, 5 second single exposure, fixed tripod, processing in Aperture 3.

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