Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Northern Lights are an unprecedented display in Canada

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An aurora also commonly known as the polar lights

As we’ve heard, or someone in Canada may have observed, the Northern Hemisphere has a colorful light show in the night sky at different times of the year. It is called Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Similarly, the Southern Hemisphere’s aurora is known as the southern lights, or aurora australis. It is best seen near the South Pole, such as Tasmania, New Zealand and Antarctica.

An aurora, also commonly known as the polar lights. It exhibits a natural light in the Earth’s sky, mainly seen in high-latitude regions. Auroras are dynamic patterns of bright light that cover the polar sky in curtain-like, rays, spirals, and dynamic flickers. Specifically, they occur near the Earth’s magnetic poles

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To discover the northern lights – how they form and how to see them in detail, there are some videos from the Canadian Space Agency or NASA that interested readers can watch from the link below.

When auroras occur, charged particles (electrons and protons) collide with gases in Earth’s upper atmosphere. These collisions create tiny flashes that fill the sky with colorful light. When billions of flashes occur in sequence, the sky looks like the aurora is dancing.

Earth’s polar-magnetic field pulls charged particles toward the poles. The shape of the magnetic field creates two auroral ovals above the north and south magnetic poles. This is why auroras are visible in the Canadian northern sky almost every night from August to May.

Since the International Space Station is at an altitude parallel to the aurora borealis, astronauts can see the aurora at their eye level. Here is an example.

Solar Wind:
The solar wind is a continuous flow of protons and electrons from the Sun’s outer atmosphere—known as the corona. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, these charged particles flow through the solar system in the form of plasma at speeds of about 250 miles (400 kilometers) per second to 500 miles (800 kilometers) per second.

When the solar wind reaches Earth, our planet’s magnetic field lines form an invisible shield that always shields us from the solar wind and sends it poleward. The interaction of these particles with the Earth’s atmosphere is able to create bright aurora displays over the polar regions.

Sometimes, the solar wind is very strong and penetrates the Earth’s magnetic field. These plasma streams are also seen to interact with the gas in the magnetic field (magnetosphere) to produce spectacular auroras.

Earth’s magnetic field extends thousands of kilometers into space.

As a rule, when the Sun is more active, the aurora appears on Earth with an overwhelming and stunning display. The oval aurora over northern Canada then extends further south, with northern Canadian provinces such as Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and northern Quebec seeing prominent auroras. When solar activity decreases, the oval returns to its normal position and the aurora becomes less intense.

Also, due to the solar wind, magnetic field lines sometimes reconnect on the side of the Earth opposite the Sun. They spring back like an elastic band, sending huge amounts of energy back to Earth’s poles. This phenomenon, called magnetic reconnection, creates more spectacular displays of auroras.

Northern lights come in different colors, green, red, blue etc.

Photographing Aurora:
The Northern Lights are a spectacular display of light that you can capture on camera if you get a chance to see it with your own eyes.

The advice is to pick up the chub in as clean an area as possible. But feel free to try areas where foreground landscape elements help draw attention to your photos.

To photograph the Northern Lights you will need the following equipment:

A camera capable of long exposures (at least 10 seconds).

A sturdy tripod is essential to prevent shaking.

For a cable release or remote operation, to avoid jerking.

A camera with a wide-angle lens (ideally).

Below are three steps that can be followed to take great photos of the Northern Lights.

1. Find a spot
Choose a dark location with a clear view of all horizons.

Using a tripod, position your camera so that your shot includes the sky and trees or any landmarks. Take a photo of the sky straight up as well.

2. Adjust your settings
Exposure: Set your exposure time between 10 and 25 seconds to prevent star trails from appearing in the photo. Longer exposures will produce brighter images. But if the aurora moves quickly, the image will be blurry.

Aperture: Set the aperture to the lowest possible setting (f/2.8, f/3.5 or f/5.6, depending on the lens you’re using) to ensure as much light enters your camera.

Photo of Northern Lights taken in Yellowknife, NWT. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency, University of Calgary, Astronomy Answers)

Film Speed ISO: Set your film speed to 400 ISO or 800 ISO to record light with sufficient detail. Higher film speeds collect more light and color, but image quality is often grainy.

Focus: Focus your camera on the star. Set your lens almost to infinity to bring them into focus. If using a digital camera, take a practice photo of the star and review the photo to check focus.

3. Start snapping
Experiment with different combinations of film speed and exposure length. Moonlight and aurora conditions can change quickly, so be prepared by adjusting these settings at any time.

Aurora Viewing Guide:
You don’t need any special equipment to see the aurora, just a healthy enthusiasm.

Northern communities in Canada regularly display the aurora borealis, as many of them stay below the aurora.

Toronto, Canada

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