2023 SEPTEMBER ALASKA AURORA RESULTS or
“A TASTE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS“
by Paul D. Maley
This trip resulted in another successful Northern Lights observation from September 13-17, 2023. Of the 4 nights the first one, September 13, was the best with an additional very minor window during clouds on September 17 where some activity was seen and photographed. Nights 2 and 3 were completely overcast. So, it ended up being a taste of the Northern Lights. But then this is the risk when searching the skies and in Alaska you never known until a day or two before what the weather will be like regardless of the forecasts prior.
Our team (left to right) in front of the ‘aurora viewing cabin’: Paul D. Maley, Lynn Palmer, Zina Mirsky, Rodney Rocha, Robyn Morgan, Brian Siegel, Nancy Okamoto, Deb Hulse, Lisa Siegel, Bob Hulse, Sara Griffing, Kathleen Welch.
A view of the mountains from our lodge toward the town of North Pole. This is a bit odd since the real North Pole is hundreds of miles to our north. But what it also shows is the trans Alaska pipeline which can be seen from several places on the lodge property. Bob Hulse photo.
In the fall a large variety of wildflowers permeate the lodge surroundings. This is an Arctic Yellow Violet Viola. Below, the middle shot is of a Begonia blossom, while the one on the far right is a wildflower named Butter and Eggs. Others remain unidentified but may be poppies. Lynn Palmer photos.
For dinner there are 6 choices for an entree. If you like meat this is the New York steak.
There is always a vegetarian dinner entree. This one is stuffed bell pepper with candied carrots.
Shrimp dinner entree. Lynn Palmer photo.
Salmon dinner entree. Lynn Palmer photo.
Hunters recently provided a rare treat: moose meat during one night. This is the first time in 10 years at the lodge that this has been served and it was fantastic.
In fall, the colors are changing in the Fairbanks area. Paul D. Maley photo.
Sun dogs are optical phenomenon that appear on either side of the Sun, even in fall. Here a very intense one is to the right while a weaker one to the left. A chair is used to diffuse the Sun. Paul D. Maley photo.
Dawson, the lodge mascot hangs out in the kitchen. Lynn Palmer photo.
Moose crossing the road. Brian Siegel photo.
One of the sights to see when you visit Running Reindeer Ranch. Brian Siegel photo.
A small herd of reindeer at the ranch. Brian Siegel photo.
NORTHERN LIGHTS IMAGES
You do not need a 35mm DSLR to take decent images of the Northern Lights. The one above was taken with a tripod-mounted Iphone 14 Pro. Zina Mirsky photo.
However, with a DSLR, the first step in getting ready to photograph the Lights is to take test shots before the activity begins and confirm that stars are in focus. None of my images have had any software processing done to them. Nikon D5600, f/3.5, ISO6400, 6 seconds. Photos where there is no credit listed were taken by Paul D. Maley
September 13: faint wisps are seen above the lodge that reveal a band forming in the northeast sky.
The action then shifts to the east where the band took on a strong green glow.
Then our eyes focused on the west where the band had now expanded to where it crossed the sky from east to west. The non-green areas are high clouds reflecting lights from the city of Fairbanks to the lower left.
A series of images from Brian Siegel. The one above was taken at 10:53pm with a Nikon Z8, Nikkor Z 20mm, f/1.8 S, ISO4000, 8 sec. Three satellite trails appear in this photo. All images were post processed using DxO PhotoLab 6 software.
10:54pm, ISO3600, 6 sec. Otherwise all other camera details remain unchanged. Two satellite trails appear. Brian Siegel photo.
11:05pm, Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, ISO3200, 2.5 sec. Brian Siegel photo.
11:06pm, same parameters as previous image. Overhead shot with 1 satellite trail. Constellation of Cassiopeia to right of green band. Brian Siegel photo.
11:09pm, 6 sec. Star Arcturus at bottom, Big Dipper embedded in green glow to the right of center. Brian Siegel photo.
11:10pm, refer to 11:06pm image for changes, ISO2000, 6 sec. Star in upper left of center is Vega. Brian Siegel photo.
11:17pm, refer to 11:09pm image for changes, Nikkor Z 20mm f/1.8 S, f/2.8, ISO3200, 6 sec. Brian Siegel photo.
11:20pm, refer to 11:10pm image for changes, f/1.8, 2 sec. Brian Siegel photo.
10:55pm. iPhone 14 (not the Pro) on tripod, Night Mode, f/1.5, 2.0 sec automatic exposure, ISO5000. Rodney Rocha photo.
Photo #2. 11:16pm. Same specifications as above image. Rodney Rocha photo.
The aurora alert sounded after midnight and 7 of us ran out to see a relatively overcast sky. However, through the clouds a few faint and quickly vanishing small patches of the Lights came and went. At one point a band appeared that was easily visible.
The single band that appeared through the clouds. Nikon D5600, ISO1600, 8mm lens, f3.5, 6 sec exposure.
Tripod mounted Olympus EM1 mirrorless DSLR at approx 7mm, f3.2, 5 seconds, ISO 1600. Zina Mirsky photo.
AURORAS FROM THE AIR
At the conclusion of the trip Bob Hulse flew from Fairbanks to Chicago on September 17 late at night and was able to get some good shots of the aurora.
In this image you see both a wide arc and “curtains” with stars in the background from the constellations of Gemini (right side) and Canes Venatici. For all 3 images here: ISO3200, Olympus OM-1, 17mm lens, f1.2, 1.3 seconds. Bob Hulse photo.
In this image you can see not only how the aurora have changed in appearance but also lights from the ground. Bob Hulse photo.
The image above again shows a later evolution during the 4 hours in which aurora were seen from the plane. Both curtains and bands are visible. Bob Hulse photo.