July 14, 2012 Iowa Auroras

What a night this turned out to be. Above is a shot of the sun and the sunspot responsible for this flare, taken at sunset the night of these auroras. 2 days prior when it released the X1 solar flare, it was more towards the middle of the sun. From our view here, the sun there would be rotating from upper left toward lower right. Draw a line through those spots and that's the angle of rotation. 27 or 28 days for one rotation.

The dashed lines on the dates are in zulu time, or 0z, which for us here is 7pm right now. The big flare left the sun around 17z July 12(noon). It would arrive at Earth about 2 full days later.

These are 3 hour intervals. You can see 6 hours before 7pm/0z on the 14th it hit. I didn't save any solar wind or Bz data and can't find graphs now, or I'd have put those up. But hitting around noon it really sucks waiting for darkness. I tried to avoid looking at the obs all day long. I look toward sunset and Bz hadn't gone south much at all and it looked like probably a lame hit. Myself, Chris, Brett and Jodi went out for it anyway and met on a hill in western Iowa.

I grabbed this one just for later reference I guess. Aurora potential deal. The time on there says 846z so 3:46 a.m. for us.

Anyway, back to just after sunset. Everyone finally showed up and we walked up the hill. Our cameras could just barely pick up any hint of auroras. It was lame. We kept ourselves entertained though. Midnight passes and no real changes. That time takes us through the KP5 values on that above graph. Bz the whole time was never really south and I think it was north a ways at times too.

12:30 comes around and all the sudden, bam! No not referencing aurora activity, but gun shot nearby. A truck had recently went down the road and down below where you can't see it or the gravel road really. A bit later bam! again. Sounded like a 22. This was exactly like one other time here, with a group of us. All the times I've gone alone, I've never heard gun fire. But like that last time, 2 shots happened, we eventually think it was either a truck that just went by messing with us, or it was someone shooting raccoons in their headlights on the road. Have to come up with some sorta reasoning when this happens, close by, middle of the night. We crouched down a bit and eventually chalk it up to someone hunting from their truck at night. So the mindset was it had nothing to do with us. More on this in a bit lol.

Bz finally goes south around 2 a.m. and a show starts.

I guess it's safe to say if we were making too much noise, we were now making more with the aurora dancing around finally. But not for much longer lol(noise).

I was using a nearby house to live view focus my camera. It was looking away from the aurora. It was down below us, 1500 feet away, that I've now measured on google earth. All the sudden I see plain as day muzzle flashes from the back yard of that house and quickly hear the reports from them. A fast SEVEN shots. Never seen muzzle flashes in the dark before and don't care to again. Thankfully Chris turned with the first report and also saw where they were coming from, seeing the last 3 flashes. So yeah the truck hunting idea just went flying out the window. It was now to thinking they were for us. We soon realized that since it was cooler out(much), thanks to outflow from storms earlier, that perhaps that house had its windows open and was hearing us. There's just nothing else to explain someone firing off 7 shots at 2 a.m. like that, from a dark area of their back yard. Especially when considering the two earlier and the two the time before with a group there. Those flashes were just so crisp looking and odd. Really really not cool, but hell if it was for noise I'd probably do the same thing. Just sucks not knowing really where they were pointing the damn gun. Dark out and you just see the damn flashes plain as day. Did it scare us away? No. Did it quiet us the hell down, yes!

Literally, those shots just happened. I jumped over and down the edge more, crouching down and shot the above. Fresh worry was happening while trying to keep getting photos. Wasn't a cool feeling at the time because you weren't sure where they were now. A person could walk right up there and you'd not know it till they were there. Plus we could hear them at times. We eventually joked, "why do they have to do this now and not earlier when we were bored?" This while we're all literally hugging the damn ground trying to shoot...keeping our heads and bodies down from that line of sight. And all of our minds kinda wondering, go down now or shoot the aurora as it's just now being cool, very cool. There's a slim outside chance it wasn't related to us, especially given the amount of car traffic on those gravel roads down there that go basically nowhere, couple other houses is all. It was also a Saturday night and I think the Iowa bars close at 2 a.m. 90% sure they could hear us and just fired into the air to get a point across, which was taken well.

Still hugging the ground and still wondering what to do. Go down to our cars and have that hill in the way of the show now. My thinking was, if we are going down, we should do it NOW. If mr firearms wants to head up here, it won't take him long. Then thought, lets go higher up this hill and at least put a buffer on this. Give us room to see if anyone was going to walk up there.

These looked crazy with a fast lens and short shutters on them. These are between 1 and 4 second shutters, mostly 4. These really changed position fast tonight.

About to leave that spot and go further up the hill. We were as exposed but we were super quiet now lol. Our bright lcd screens and phones were pointing us out this whole time too, which didn't help the comfort feeling. Anyway, no more gunfire the rest of the night. Again, it's quite lame to be standing on a sharp hill and suddenly be seeing freaking muzzle flashes right where you happen to be staring, 1/4 mile away. And not just a shot or two, but quickly emptying their damn clip. Then to add to it, in that same span of time was the odd tuck. Guy comes up the road and goes east. You can't really flip around till you reach a farm to the east, as the road is too twisty to 3 point turn on and not risk getting hit. Just can't see far enough to do one. I knew this. His lights vanish to the east, then soon lights coming from the east. I'm like, that is the same truck, I know where he just turned around. And sure enough. He goes by and down the hill below us. We couldn't see him below us, but we saw his lights stop moving. Then could tell he was turning around again! Like oh great. Then he goes by again going east again. Always something when out shooting at night lol. I don't plan on seeing muzzle flashes again though. Why can't it be a damn lion one of these times. I want to see a mountain lion.

Up on top now, enjoying our gained sight distance down the hill, oh and enjoying the aurora come back again. We about gave up before every outburst. It would go super lame for a while, then viola, brightening dancing pillars. This was all now joined by the Venus, Moon, Jupiter and Pleiades conjunction. That and a whole lot of meteors and fireballs. After a while we were really wondering what the hell was up with the meteors.

This is pretty cool, but it could have been a lot cooler. I had just switched lenses back to the 50mm. Just got done focusing it. Just about to compose it and start shooting again. Happen to be holding my cable release. I then see a bright ass meteor right in the aurora. Brain didn't react quite fast enough. I push the cable release and realize I pushed it too late anyway and quickly let it go. I know for certainty I pushed it after the meteor. Yet the damn trail showed up like this. I doubt I even pushed it a full second, so the aurora and, well it was under-exposed compared to what it could have been had I held it longer, or actually had it going during the meteor. The meteor would have been crazy bright. That explosion part of it would have looked crazy bright. Not often you would catch an actual bright meteor with a 50mm at F1.8 1600 ISO and oh yeah in the middle of an aurora. Least I got the trail. That is all that is there, the part left after the meteor. It was a nice and real bright meteor, yet if you compared it to the Badlands fireball I got earlier this year, it would seem an utter joke. That thing was so messed up. Wish everyone could see ones like it least once.

Another stronger outburst showing up again.

Of the auroras I've now seen, I'd have to rank this night as number 3 on a tops scale. 2005 number 1, 2004 number 2, this one 3, and this would bump the October red storm to 4. The October red storm deal was cooler just during that 15 minute outburst. But as a whole would not be better than this night. It will be nice to get into winter and get more crisp skies. Pretty damn hazy here now. The cirrus and other clouds trying to move south didn't help either.

Another better spurt of pillars came around, shortly before twilight would start to ruin things.

Nice way to round out the long night and early morning, happy gunfire-free auroras.

This is telling of how pre-occupied our minds were. Only now did anyone think to actually get shots of people with the auroras or anything other than just empty horizon straight on aurora shots. From left to right, Brett, Jodi, Chris. This night reminded me how badly I need a faster wide angle and a fast lens that fits between 22mm and 100mm, like the 24-70 F2.8 would have been really useful on these...even more so with a full frame body of course. 50mm on the crop was just a bit too much zoom. 10-22 usually too wide and too slow, especially when zoomed in.

I wasn't shooting for a time lapse really. Had I had a second camera I could have. But I got enough at times from one perspective to at least toss something/this up.