The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Troy Carpenter
For The Sentinel 

Night Sky Lit Up: The skies over Goldendale Shone with reare Norther Lights two weeks ago.


Troy Carpenter

Night Sky Lit Up: The skies over Goldendale shone with rare Northern Lights two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, May 23, a relatively weak solar flare unleashed a coronal mass ejection in the general direction of Earth. This eruption of high energy solar particles sideswiped our planet's magnetic field on May 27, one full day earlier than expected; the impact destabilized Earth's magnetosphere and touched off a strong G3 class geomagnetic storm that lasted well into the next day. As high energy solar particles, guided by our rapidly shifting magnetic field, struck and ionized Earth's upper atmosphere, bright aurorae were observed all over the world in areas not typically privy to them, including 20 states, some as far south as California and Colorado. A glow on the northern horizon was even photographed in Arizona.

At Goldendale Observatory, Memorial Day Weekend visitors were pleasantly surprised by the explosion of Northern Lights near the end of their viewing session. Though bright colors could not be observed with the naked eye, visitors with digital cameras were able to capture the green and purple hues of oxygen and nitrogen emission with exposures as short as eight seconds long.

The image here represents a 20-second exposure taken at ISO 800 with a 24mm Lens at f/2 on a Sony A99. The shot was taken on the roof of the Observatory.

While the majority of the display never crossed the Canadian border, Auroral pillars were witnessed rising as high as 40 degrees above the horizon here in Goldendale. The motion of these pillars was extremely rapid and spastic, with no two exposures revealing identical structures. The leftward tilt of the display demonstrates the angle at which Earth's magnetic field was being skewed by the solar particle stream.


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