Late summer vibes: colorful displays in the sky

How not to get amazed by the physicality and functionment of our world (and universe)?

In a matter of 5 days, the 'bright nights' have disappeared over the Danish landscapes, making the noctilucent clouds rare to see. The sky gets darker and darker every night, and the period of darkness increases respectively. It is precisely this moment of the year I love. It is at the edge of the astrophotography season and the bright summer nights, making it possible to photograph several sky phenomena at the same time such as noctilucent clouds, aurorae, sunsets, milky way, meteor showers, and so forth. One of my biggest dream (also for a lot of astrophotographers) is to find the most unsual combination of these events.

Unfortunately for me, I have not been able to fulfill this goal just yet, and I am still waiting for the opportunity to catch NLC and aurora at the same time. In the meantime I want to share this awesome video taken precisely 3 years back in Caithness, Scotland by an amazing astrophotographer Maciej Winiarczyk (facebook page: click here), that shows an extraordinary overlapping event of Aurora borealis and NLC:

However I have not been too disappointed either. The weather conditions have been vary variable in Denmark since my last post, but it still gave me the opportunity to go out and shoot several times. As a matter of fact, and as I was saying earlier, it is for me the best time to shoot wide-angle nightscapes, because the sky takes unusually vibrant colors, due to the nautical twilight that still persists a bit. As the astrophotography officially kicks off, the milky way got visible again (It was about time!) around July 30th, enabling me to start getting better at composite exposures and stacking. Here is a little example at what the late July - early August milky way looks like in Denmark:

I love that this season still gives you a chance to peek at the core of the milky way, even though it is low on the horizon and thus washed out by street lights. The warmer air of summer gives a perfect sharpness that is not possible any other time of year: August is all in all the best season for shooting the milky way, so get your cameras out and good hunting!

But let's get to the good part (if it wasn't the good part already!). August also means dark enough skies to get a glimpse at solar storms. Yes, you had guessed it, it is aurora hunting season again. And they have been putting on an unusually recurrent show all summer. Canada and the northern states in the US have been able to capture magnificent shots of the lights, leaving us perplex as to whether there were going to be any left for us in the winter! But worry no more, because they are here too, and it's our turn to show their beauty.

I have been facing a little intriguing question though. How could provinces in Canada (and states) see the northern lights higher in the sky at lower latitudes than Denmark? It hadn't struck me before but the answer was obvious (I got it from Dr. Tamitha Skov: Space weather meteorologist twitter): the magnetic poles are obviously not at the same spot as the physical North pole! It bends towards the North American continent and not Eurasia. As a consequence, the Kp index lines on the world map appear crooked, and at the same latitude, we need a Kp 5 to see something whereas they would need a Kp 2... I should move back to Canada (had I known it earlier)!

Either way one can still appreciate the lights from the distance and it actually gives the whole perspective of their height and panels of colors, corresponding to the different elements the solar particles cross in the Earth's atmosphere. As night battles with daylight to get supremacy, the sky offers the whole spectrum of colors. But it highlights most particularly the primary colors, so rare to find in the darkness! I have gathered a time-lapse footage from the nights of July 24th, 27th and August 3rd to showcase how vibrant and hued the colored aurorae appear and evolve. I love to watch them dance on the horizon and the time-speeding technique is a great way to observe this event. See for yourself:

I am starting to shoot with my EQ mount again as the sky gets dark enough for deep-sky astrophotography and will keep you posted on the pictures! Here's a little appetizer I shot last night:

Andromeda galaxy (M31) shot with iOptron Skyguider