It was an explosive aurora-filled all-nighter in early March 2012, and I was counting my lucky stars that I was already clocked on my aurora hunt and in position near the Matanuska Glacier (100 miles northeast of Anchorage). The show started with a bang at 8 pm when the energy from a big solar flare blasted earth. It wasn't even dark yet as multi-colored aurora curtains enveloped the deep blue sky and, with only a few small intermissions, the show never let up for the next 10 hours. I danced the moonlit night away surrounded by spectacular 360° mountain and aurora vistas. It was exhilarating.
As is often the case, it was near the break of dawn when I witnessed the best display of the night. The moon was going down between the Chugach Range on the left and the Talkeetna Mountains flanking the right when, at 5:20 am on March 7, 2012, it was "Blast Off!" time for the northern lights. The western skies came alive as a curving purple and green curtain climbed rapidly toward the zenith cascading a powerful pattern of light throughout its path.
This relatively short 2-1/2 second photographic exposure freezes the details of the blast off in motion, including the stars. If you look for the little pinholes of light through the translucent purple curtain, a well-known constellation awaits. Hint: drink deep.