Quick Shot: The REAL Aurora

I was wise to call the first aurora sighting of our trip a teaser..... tonight was the real show.

Since traveling to Finland, I've suddenly become a weather freak. I am constantly clicking refresh on all of the solar wind charts, real time satellite feeds, and weather radars in the hope that my attention will help alert me to possible aurora activity. I was watching the solar wind forecast and around 5:30pm, things started to suddenly change. The solar winds (which is what causes the aurora) were suddenly stronger than they had been all week, so I told my friend it was time to suit up and head out..... I was feeling lucky.

As soon as we got out onto the lake, we could see a small clump of green lights above the northern horizon. It wasn't very bright, but the camera confirmed it was really green, so we grabbed the kick sleds and setup shop. We didn't have to wait long.... within 20 mins the sky was turning green and several new clusters of light had arrived. In an aurora workshop earlier this week, we'd been told that seeing two distinct bands of light across the sky meant it was going to be a good aurora.... we had three and four bands!

Suddenly, mother nature went to work in a big way. We could watch as green streaks would fall from the sky like rain, sometimes twisting back up into a spiral before being over taken by another falling streak. All thoughts of dinner were gone and were replaced with a flood of emotions. It's been a long time since I felt like a kid opening presents at Christmas.... but this was it! I wanted to cry, dance, yell, sing, and proclaim genuine glee at the top of my lungs! An hour and a half went by before I realized we were running low on memory card space and we needed to bundle up before we jumped onto the snowmobiles and went searching for more lights.

I really didn't think things could improve - the lights that had been tricky to see with the naked eye the first night were so vibrant and beautiful. The lights stretched out to cover a full 360* of the sky while we boarded our snowmobiles and headed out for some additional adventures.

Obviously, there was no need to travel far on the snowmobiles. Just enough to get away from the lights of the lodge and a new scene. The lights seemed to know we were up to something, because they waited until we were in position with the cameras setup before exploding.

The colors of the aurora are caused by different gases coming in contact with the atmosphere. Green is the most common color, followed by purple and occasionally red. The purple and red are normally very difficult to detect with the human eye and the camera tells you they are present.

This show was completely different- a huge stream of lights came from these sky and danced back and forth. Up to this point, the movement was slow and subtle - you could see it but it wasn't a roaring and fast movement. Now the lights changed and started a quick back and forth dance in the sky, with the purple being very prominent. I was in total awe. There is nothing I can hit on this keyboard to describe the incredible power of this display. Our guide told us afterwards that this was an above average showing of the aurora, so we were quite lucky. 

Seeing the aurora has been a lifelong dream of mine - it was #1 on my bucket list of things to see. While I was content with the first day's small aurora sighting, this totally blew me away. Now I can say I've seen the REAL aurora!

I have more photos to edit than I could possibly look at tonight, so here's a quick time lapse teaser. This was shot from the GoPro Hero 4 Silver that we just shoved in the snow.... the video will replay twice. This should get you excited for more pictures!

PS - if a trip like this interests you, check out www.theaurorazone.com. They were top notch!