Weekly Photo Challenge: Change (Northern Lights in the Night Sky)

Edited 10/7/15 ~ Thank you, to The Daily Post, for including this post and photo in Photos We Loved: Change!  I learned the slideshow may not play on mobile apps, so added a gallery of the same images at the end. 

Aurora Borealis …. the Northern Lights …. magical, mystical changing skies.

Northern Lights in the Minnesota Sky

Early in the morning of September 20, the dark skies were dancing.  I was up late talking with friends who had joined us for a leisurely dinner.  At about 2:30 a.m., we were ready to call it a night.  I heard something that sounded like racoons or other nocturnal critters “arguing” outside, so I went out to investigate.  As I stood in the front yard and looked down the street, I noticed a faint glow illuminating the tree line — a telltale sign that the Northern Lights may be out.

I pulled up my phone and checked my Aurora Forecast app — the visual forecast and Kp Index were extremely promising! A Kp Index of 4 or more in northern Minnesota is reportedly sufficient for observing the Northern Lights, and all indications were that my region was experiencing a Kp Index of 5 with strong activity.  I then took a look at the Great Lakes Aurora Hunters Facebook group and one of the other photography groups I follow, and noticed a few members buzzing about the aurora activity that night.

After saying good-night to my friends, I packed up the camera bag, grabbed the tripod, and headed away from the city lights.  The funny thing about the aurora borealis is that it can disappear as quickly as it appears, and while there are forecasts available, it’s just like the weather, with no promise or guarantee.  I knew that as soon as I found a spot to set up my camera and watch the horizon, the skies could very well go dark on me.  It’s always a gamble, but when it pays off, the rewards are priceless.

I found a promising location with an open view of the northern horizon, and interesting treeline.  The sky was cloud-free, and the stars were out in full force.  From 3:00 a.m. until 4:30 a.m., I watched in awe as the sky shimmered and pulsed, pillars of light periodically shooting up from the horizon, as an undulating green band hypnotically formed above the tree line and began emitting spikes of green and purple.  While the camera captures far more than the human eye, the wee hours of that morning (or late night, depending on your perspective) yielded a spectacular show that also was visible to the naked eye.

I packed up my tripod and started the car to go home on two different occasions, but as I sat and watched the ever-changing lights, the display drew me out again to appreciate the wonder just a bit longer.   Finally, the thought of getting at least a few hours of sleep outweighed the temptation to stay until the sunrise would overtake the mesmerizing images in the northern sky.

Play the slideshow and watch the lights dance and change to experience the beauty of the aurora yourself.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gallery viewing (click on any of the individual images to view full-size), if your mobile app is unable to play the slideshow:

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  “Change” is this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

22 responses to “Weekly Photo Challenge: Change (Northern Lights in the Night Sky)”

  1. Kat, I know people who have gone all the way and returned without witnessing this phenomenon. You are so fortunate to have been able to see this and to have captured it so beautifully.

    I saw your gallery on the Daily Post blog and meant to comment right away but never made it here. Belated congratulations! The mention is well deserved.


  2. Congrats on being featured by WP and Cheri! Very well deserved – and jealous of the spectacle I am! Maybe someday I will see it…


    • I just saw a few photos from North Dakota from last night (of course, not sure where in North Dakota …. and there’s a lot of big sky out there!). It can be so hit and miss, even when the forecast looks promising! Thanks for commenting, Lucinda!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It has been such an active year for them — apparently the solar activity has been particularly vigorous! But it is hit or miss, so if you do stay up or happen to be up when they’re out, it is hard to resist — but so often it’s when it is bitter cold out so this was a real treat!

      Liked by 1 person

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