Make a wish – aurora adventure with shooting stars

One of the most active meteor showers, the Geminids, are underway on Dec-13/14th and last night I was lucky to see about 50-60 shooting stars while – once again – looking for auroras. Yesterdays adventure started very late, it was almost midnight. I’ve been waiting for auroras to show up due to some strong activity on the sun, but for a long time nothing happened. At midnight I went with a friend in hope that we’d see Northern lights.

Copyright: Thomas Kast

A frozen lake with the city lights of Oulu on the horizon

Our first stop was a frozen lake but instead of auroras we experienced something else. Very strange noises came from the lake every now and then. Scratching, hammering, all kind of weird noises came from the moving ice. At times it was far away and a moment later right beside us. Very mystic experience to say the least.. A day before it was +5 C and raining, so I guess some of the ice melted. During our night out it was -10 C and the ice on the lake reshaped itself.

After a while we made our way to another lake only to hear stronger noises. Staying there for many hours, we saw a lot of shooting stars but the camera was – of course – pointing into the wrong direction. With only little auroras showing up, I wanted to get back home. So we left at 2.45 am. In the forest we made one more stop to get a decent photo of the moonlit landscape. Right then auroras started to appear and for a few minutes the sky was glowing red! I was so happy we stopped one more time.

Copyright: Thomas Kast

First auroas of the night around 3.15am

Copyright: Thomas Kast

Red auroras!

Hungry for more auroras, I found some energy left in me and stayed longer than planned.. again. My last photo of the night was well past moonset and had a Geminid with auroras in it. It was perfect time to go home and get some needed sleep 🙂

Copyright: Thomas Kast

Geminid shooting star and auroras behind the trees.

Light pillars (a.k.a. cat food)

Last night I went to the grocery shop to get some food for our cats. I bought all kinds of things – except the cat food. I noticed that once I was back home and with -18C outside I really didn’t want to go again. But I did and luckily so! For some reason I went to another shop and on my way there I saw light pillars popping up in the sky. Quickly buying the cat food I went home and grabbed my gear. The air was filled with dancing ice crystals, creating the illusion of light pillars for almost every light source. I saw them from head lights of cars and even the moon had pillars!

By the way, the cats enjoyed their food once I was back home 🙂

Here some more information on light pillars.

Copyright: Thomas Kast

Light pillars from spot lights of a big parking area in Oulu.

Copyright: Thomas Kast

Another view through some trees.

Copyright: Thomas Kast

Light pillars with Christmas lights. Also street lamps have pillars

Copyright: Thomas Kast

Light pillars from a football field & light trails of passing cars.

Fox ­fires – an Aurora Borealis guide V: Links

Part I: Introduction and terms
Part II: Expectations
Part III: Preparation is everything
Part IV: Photographing auroras

The final part of my Aurora Borealis guide is a list of websites. There are a lot of pages with useful information, here are some of them.

Magnetogram in Sodankylä (Finland)
Magnetogram in Tromsø (Norway)

Webcam in Kiruna (Sweden)
Webcam in Sodankylä (Finland)
Webcam in Tromsø (Norway)

Webcam collection from Aurora Service (Europe)
Webcam collection from Auroras Now! (all in Finland)
Webcam collection from spaceweatherlive.com
Webcam in Abisko (Sweden) – currently under maintenance

Aurora oval (20 minute forecast)
Kp-index prediction for the next hours
Kp-index Map Europe & Asia
Kp-index Map North America

Aurora Service (Europe) – auroras and sun activity for Europe
spaceweatherlive.com – auroras and sun activity
Auroras Now! – aurora forecast & webcams (in Finnish)
Aurora forcast from GI Alaska
3-day Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity (NOAA)
Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA)
spaceweather.com  – solar activity, meteors, comets, etc
solarham.net – all about the sun

Moon phases, rise and set times
Sun Calculator for your location

So that’s about it. I might add some mobile apps here at some point too.

Hopefully you found some useful tps in this guide and are able to use them soon!

Wishing you colorful nights,
Thomas

Copyright: Thomas Kast

Midnight magic