Anticipation was high for the impending G1-G2 geomagnetic storm the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) was forecasting for March 14-15, 2022. Based on the previous forecasts being 12-18 hours late, I had not considered that it could actually come early. I was working on some web stuff and casually looking at data and Twitter to keep abreast of the solar information through the night. The time changed one hour ahead at 2am, and I was still reading stuff and working on things.
At 4am, I decided it had been a long enough day and headed to bed. As I was getting ready to get into bed, I thought I would look at the data one last time. That is when I saw a sharp increase in the data from SWPC and chatter on Twitter that the CME had arrived at the DSCOVR satellite. Looking at the data, it did not look like it was a clear indication, so I reached out to see. I was informed that it was, in fact, a clear CME signature and I decided to head up to Mt. Baldy, just 15 minutes from my house.
I typically do not go to Mt. Baldy. People race up to the top like there is no tomorrow, even in icy conditions, and it can get quite dangerous. I have almost been run over by a speeding car and people have had their vehicles side-swiped because it gets so busy. However, at 4:10am, I was confident the crowd would be minimal. Thus, I took a leap of faith and headed up the mountain. I think it is easy to say, I was not disappointed to be the only car up there and I was not disappointed for staying out so late.
I took my first photo at 4:36am (above) of what wan an amazing arc dancing in the sky. As the morning continued, the arc became more active and started drifting to the south. Before long, I found myself directly underneath it as it continued to dance across the skies above Eagle River. Within about 90 minutes or so, I had aurora directly overhead!
The corona displays were amazing (photo above)! I had not seen this much overhead activity in the Eagle River area since last January and, possibly, March (I was at Hatcher Pass that night). We did have quite the solar storm back in October and November, but clouds prevented viewing much of the activity overhead. This activity was the best I have personally witnessed since that trip to Hatcher Pass last year.
As the morning drew on, it was evident the aurora was dancing all over the sky. Even with the Waxing Gibbous moon hanging in the sky, the lights were bright enough to see with the naked eye. I do not have an external intervalometer for my camera, so I tried to stay focused on capturing continuous images of the night. However, I was constantly moving my camera to try catching as much of the intense activity as I could. I kicked myself for not having my second tripod to have my GoPros running while I was taking stills.
I knew, once I hit the mountain at 4:30am, I was going to stay out until the lights either dissipated or the sunrise began to wash them out. One of the coolest things I found from the morning, during post-processing of my 571 photos, was that I actually captured blue aurora (photo above)! It was very, very faint with the naked eye when I watched it, but it looked more purple to me than blue. However, once I was able to process the photos, I could clearly see the bright blue streak the camera picked up. I thought that was pretty awesome!
The last shot of the morning was taken at 7:10am as the sunrise began to wash the lights out. You could still make out the clouds of aurora in the light, but they were very, very faint. The final shot I took was of the moon setting over the Turnagain Arm with the faint aurora overhead (photo above). I thought it was a neat capture of three events at one time: moon set, aurora, and sunrise. As you can see, it was definitely a great morning to stay out late! If you would like to see the entire night’s time lapse, the video is embedded below. Enjoy!