On This Night November 5th / 6th, 2001
(Hi everybody! I hope all is well in your world! Here’s to hoping that history repeats itself!)
On this night, 20 years ago on November 5th/6th, 2001 in the early evening, skies remained crystal clear over most of Alaska. Thick ice fog settled over the city as temperatures dropped below zero once again for at least a week.
After spending multiple long nights out in the field, another “all-nighter” seemed a rather tiring undertaking, however…! Giving in to the need to continue nightly vigils, the truck was packed with gear & I headed out around 9 pm.
30 miles out I finally exited the ice fog & was “greeted” to a windshield filled with powerful multicolored aurora. Highway driving & trying to watch aurora is not safe at all, as dancing aurora can disorient drivers off the road.
Not being where I needed to be yet, I lowered the visor & concentrated on safely getting to a more remote location another 15 minutes away.
As energetic & bright as the auroras were, this was a very difficult thing to do…I could still see the reflection & light from its dance filling the truck cab & on the hood, always tempted to steal a glance out the window.
Not hitting a moose or running off the road was paramount though…those two things can really ruin your day…or “night”, in this case!
Finally arriving out on a frozen river delta away from all man-made light, the tripods & cameras were maneuvered in place to capture the once-in-a-lifetime scenes.
Back in the day, these images are taken with fully manual Nikon bodies, Nikon f1.2, f1.4, f1.6 & f2.0 lenses with Fujichrome 50 & 100 ASA 35mm Slide films…(remember film?)…no noteworthy digital cameras then!
All-sky red auroras are extremely rare & may only occur a few times over several decades. Such events can be seen far equator-ward, as low as 25°-35° latitude.
I’ve only witnessed two such enormous rare auroras in March 2001 & 1989, other red auroral displays have been witnessed but were small.
Of course one will only experience such a wonder if you have clear skies & stay awake out under the stars. Patience, perseverance & lost sleep allowed me an exceptional gift here on this night.
With Solar Cycle 25 beginning to ramp up solar activity & climbing to Solar Maximum now, scenes like this are becoming possible again! May these natural wonders soon grace the stars across the night near you!