As the Sun set across Alaska on the evening of March 26, there was not a lot of anticipation for aurora activity. The cloud forecasts for our area were indicating somewhat unfavorable conditions with a few breaks expected. Looking at the forecasts, the decision was made to head towards the Sutton, Alaska, area to try something different. The target location was Slipper Lake, just northwest of Sutton.
The roads out to Sutton were dry with just a few areas of snowmelt running across the highway. I was excited to try this new location, recommended by a friend, as it gave a new venue to capture the northern lights in. That excitement was dashed when I made it to the entrance to get into the lake. The snow on the road back to the lake was 10-14″ deep, a fallen tree was covering a small portion of the road, and there was no cell service in that area. With all of that in mind, I turned around and headed to a different location.
On the way out to Sutton, the solar wind data was not too great. The Bt, density, and speed values were elevated, but Bz had remained north much of the evening. However, as I was getting into position, the Bz began to shift south. I arrived at my chosen spot, set up my GoPro and Sony cameras, and began filming the skies around 11:15pm AKDT (photo above).
As we moved into the wee hours of March 27, aurora activity began to pick up. Eventually, the entire horizon was fraught with color. To the naked eye, the green was a bit of a brighter gray/green, but you could definitely see the gradient change as you looked further up in the sky. The red/orange was faintly visible, as was the purple color. Although they were not brilliant at the time, they really popped out on the camera. The arc really became active around 12:10am on March 27 (photo above).
The lights danced for much of the night, off and on, as we sat under the stars. At one point, a magnificent fireball streaked across the sky (photo above); one of many shooting stars we saw throughout the night. As the morning progressed, activity picked up until the aurora activity drifted overhead. The corona we saw (photo below), looking directly overhead, was simply amazing!
Saturday night was one of the better aurora displays I have seen yet this season. I am excited for this week, as two coronal mass ejections are inbound and expected to arrive Wednesday into Thursday. I usually do not venture out during the week, but I plan to keep an eye on the data and clouds this week to potentially chase some lights during the week. We will just have to wait and see what happens!