Lily Red

Sept. 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm. Lake Louise, Alaska. Milky Way galaxy and red auroras. Lily pads lit with flashlight. 20-sec exposure reveals a lot!

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The “Lily Red” Experience

APOD~Astronomy Picture of the Day

My wife & I busted out of Anchorage on our much-anticipated September aurora hunt, an event that marks the end of the busy Alaskan summer season. We headed northeast up the Glenn Highway, took a left at the Lake Louise junction, then bounced down a pothole-filled side road. We popped up the truck camper along one of my favorite ponds that dot the region and stepped out into crisp, clear and calm conditions. Stardate: September 13, 2012.

The smell of fall was in the air and, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, an aurora glow became apparent on the far northern horizon. Time to go to work, although it felt more like play. The Milky Way galaxy stretched upward against the deep black new moon (ie, no moon) skies while the bright pinpoint of Jupiter shone like a beacon in the V-shaped pattern of Taurus the Bull (just above the clouds). Further above, the tight but bright Seven Sisters of the Pleiades open cluster twinkled prominently.

I set the exposure time for 20-seconds to burn in the starfield and, lo and behold, a red glow appeared. I have seen the coveted red northern lights this bright to the naked eye in the past but they are very rare. In this case, the camera gets much credit for acting like night-vision goggles and revealing what the less sensitive human eye has a harder time detecting. To complete this composition, while the camera shutter was still locked open, I used my little headlamp to paint the lily pads with a beam of light. "Lily Red" set the mood for a great trip.

Todd Salat

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Photo Info

Lake Louise, Alaska
Nikon Digital with Nikon 17-35mm/f2.8
20 sec, ƒ/2.8, ISO 4000

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