Castle Point Astronomy Club
The Aurora Borealis by Ted Rodway.
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The Aurora Borealis by Ted Rodway.
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Taken on 14th June 2001 from Sequim, Washington, U.S.A.

Kodak Gold 200ISO negative film.

As the incessant stream of charged particles, including electrons, that is the Solar wind meets the Earth’s magnetosphere many of the particles become trapped and are accelerated along the Earth’s magnetic field lines towards the North and South magnetic poles. As they pour down through the atmosphere the electrons interact with atmospheric oxygen atoms or nitrogen molecules. The resulting emission can then often be seen as either the Northern or Southern Lights (Aurora Borealis or Aurora Australis).

The principal emissions are green (557.7 nm at around 100 kms altitude) and red (630 nm at around 400 kms and above), both from oxygen, plus a red nitrogen emission (661 to 686 nm at about 100 kms altitude). A violet/purple emission from nitrogen (391.4 nm and 95 kms altitude) can also sometimes be seen. A fortuitous call of nature put Ted Rodway in the right place, at the right time to catch this spectacular scene. Ted explains:

"Sometimes there is only the one opportunity to take the snap to remember. “It was in June 2001 that I, along with my brother and his wife, were visiting my sister at Sequim in Washington State USA. We stayed in the converted loft of a barn in the grounds of a home called "Nelson’s duck pond". One large room that served as living and sleeping quarters meant that quiet discretion was needed at night when answering the calls of nature.

"That call came to me and was answered. On returning to my bed by the end gable window I looked out, as one does, to see a clear sky with a slight colourless haze to it. On inspection, that haze seemed to have vertical lines in it! Ah ha! Could this be an aurora? Quietly as possible and in the dark I searched for and found my SLR camera. Opening the window I cocked the shutter, balanced the camera on the window box among the flowers and composed my image. I took a 3 second shot with a view to bracketing higher. I went to cock the shutter again and found I had run out of film! In the dark and unzipping bags as quietly as possible I searched for a roll of film. Having found and loaded the film I continued for a few frames. No one was disturbed from their sleep and I went back to bed a happy boy.

"Subsequent manipulation of the image included the addition of the lower foreground using a daytime image to enhance the composition."


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