A couple days ago, a relatively weak M-class solar flare on the sun produced a coronal mass ejection. This CME was directed at Earth, with a South-pointing polarity. In other words, it was good for producing Northern Lights! Actually the flare was small enough, and the CME slow enough that I wasn't expecting anything substantial as far as Aurora on this day...or at least anything I'd be able to see. As I was getting my backyard observatory open just after dusk and getting ready to take some photos, I realized there was something wrong with the sky to the north. It was supposed to be a nearly 100% clear day. I was disappointed that there was a bank of clouds that appeared to be rolling in from the north. The clouds were odd however, So i watched them for a moment. They were green, and diffuse. Strange for clouds of course, but a bit strange for Aurora too.
observatory with faint northern lights
Having my camera handy, I took a picture of them just to see what would show up on the sensor. Eyes aren't terribly sensitive to narrow-band light like Aurora, so they often appear dim and almost colorless in some cases. The camera confirmed it. These are the Northern Lights! I proceeded to take a few beauty shots of the observatory, and then finally set up for a timelapse. That would end up being a very important decision!
I let the timelapse run for about 2 hours. The first hour or so showed a weak green glow and little else. But near the end, an explosion of color occurred. I was lucky enough to be standing outside right at the onset of the major storm. After this brief display ended, I shut down the timelapse to have a look. Wow was that cool on camera! That night I stitched it together into a video and uploaded it to youtube, then posted about it on my facebook and a couple blogs.
Within a couple days, the video had been viewed 350,000 times. It had been spotted on CNN, MSNBC, Foxnews, and dozens of local stations across the country. Perhaps 10's of Millions of people have seen this video! Have you? Youtube itself posted the video to its facebook page! Resulting in a melee of hits and comments.