2013 AURORA EXPEDITION#3 RESULTS 2022-07-21T17:45:02-05:00


by Paul D. Maley, NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society


Some members of our group watch an amazing display on Nov 30. P. Maley photo.

The 3rd Ring of Fire Expeditions aurora tour to Fairbanks, Alaska concluded on December 2.  We spent 4 nights there in an attempt to view and photograph aurora.  Of the 4 nights we were able to view the sky during parts or all of those nights.   Normally we have 2 good nights.  We had a group of 9 people on this tour and a 15 passenger van.  It was a spectacular end to the trip on the morning of our departure when Lynn and I witnessed a -8 magnitude flare from Iridium 95 with the Sun 2 degrees below the horizon from Fairbanks airport.


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Photo on November 28, 2013 by P. Maley

The first night I actually canceled aurora viewing due to all forecasts pointing toward complete overcast. However, I was convinced by the van coordinator that it might be possible to go to a different location  and perhaps get lucky with the clouds.  At this backup location we were able to find a spot where it was clear over the course of a couple of hours time.  The aurora appeared generally faint and diffuse with sporadic appearance of sizable arcs in the sky as seen below.  All photos taken by P. Maley are at ISO 1600 with a 14mm f/2.8 lens and exposure times from 8 seconds up to 25 seconds duration.

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Large structure overhead with Gemini in the aurora Nov 28.  The pinkish glow is from a small town on the horizon. P. Maley photo.


Nov 28 P. Maley photo.


Nov 28 P. Maley photo.


Motion is perceptible in the auroral cloud. Nov. 28 P.Maley photo.

The following night we went to Taste of Alaska.  It was cloudy that night but I got up around 645am and was able to get some shots of the aurora shortly afterward dispelling the myth that you can only see aurora between 1030pm and 230am.  Temperature -18 deg F.


Individual photography in light snow.  Nov 29. P. Maley photo.


Nov 29 P. Maley photo.


Nov 29. P. Maley photo.


Very broad diffuse aurora. Nov. 29 P. Maley photo.

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Aurora photo by Chris Faser using aCanon 50D using a 24mm 1.4 lens at F1.4, ISO 500 and variable speeds from 15 -8 sec.  All of Chris’s images which follow used the same characteristic details.

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Photo by Chris Faser. Lyra is in the left portion of the image.

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Photo by Chris Faser.

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Photo by Chris Faser.

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Photo by Chris Faser.

On November 30 we departure Taste of Alaska at 11am and drove up to the Arctic Circle. Due to new work rules we had only enough time to get photos at the sign showing the Arctic Circle marker and then head back toward Fairbanks.  At the circle I could make out a very faint auroral band low in the north east horizon.  Temperatures were around -30 deg F that night.  We were able to view some dramatic but brief displays at several stops as well as captured fainter aurora from the Lodge upon returning on Dec. 1 at 1am.


The road less traveled.  Nov 30. P.Maley photo.


Dramatic swirls.  Nov 30. P.Maley photo.


A beam shoots up from the horizon. It is a real auroral effect.  Nov 30. P.Maley photo.

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Chris Faser photo along the route back from the Arctic Circle.

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Chris Faser photo.

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Chris Faser photo.

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Chris Faser photo.

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Chris Faser photo.

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Chris Faser photo.


Auroral arc over a road partly illuminated by a truck (area in white).  Nov 30. P.Maley photo.

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Chris Faser photo at Taste of Alaska Lodge after returning from the Arctic Circle.

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Chris Faser photo.

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Chris Faser photo.

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Chris Faser photo.

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Chris Faser photo.


Nov 30 at Taste of Alaska Lodge looking east. P. Maley photo.


Faint whisps varely visible to the eye are easily captured in this time exposure. Nov 30. P.Maley photo.


An unexpected ‘corona’ overhead at the Lodge. P. Maley photo.

December 1 was the best night of all with clear skies at the Lodge. We monitored all night and never saw any sign of aurora.  Temperature -26 deg F.


Dec. 1. No aurora but clear all night. P. Maley photo.



Here are some images from our 5 day 4 night expedition.


Mount McKinley. Lynn Palmer photo.


Thermometer at the trading post along the Dalton Highway. P. Maley photo.


Back of the Taste of Alaska Lodge where aurora viewing is possible. P. Maley photo.



Aurora viewing location. P. Maley photo.



No wind is typical in Fairbanks. You can tell by the straight plume being generated by a local power station. P. Maley photo.


Museum in Fairbanks with near accident in foreground. P. Maley photo.

We have an excellent dinner at the Pump Room. Barbara took photo.

The group at the Cookie Jar restaurant for lunch. Left to right:  Chris Faser, Carol Watts, Lynn Palmer, Paul Maley, Debra Harmon, Gene Harmon, Ram Ramulu,  and Aruna Ramulu, . Barbara Barker photo and inset.


Alaska pipeline as it goes underground. Lynn Palmer photo.


On the way into a landing at Fairbanks. Lynn Palmer photo.


The antler arch in the park near the Springhill Suites. Lynn Palmer photo.

Our hotel

Clock tower in front of hotel. Carol Watts photo.

The bar in the Ice Hotel

Ice hotel at Chena Lodge. Carol Watts photo.


Sunrise at the Fairbanks airport at 10:30a Monday

Sunrise at Fairbanks airport December 1. Carol Watts photo.


At the pipeline. Carol Watts photo.


Early morning light on the trees. Carol Watts photo.