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Shine catchers

Where the sky blazes in the Far East and how to take good pictures - pro tips

Shine catchers
Photo: Ruslan Akhmetsafin

A little about the physics of the phenomenon. Periodically flares occur on the Sun, after which to the Earth (including the Far East) with a speed of 300-1200 km / s rushing streams of charged particles - the solar wind. Having flown over the 1-3 day, the rarefied plasma — protons and electrons of hydrogen and helium — meets the shield of the Earth’s magnetic field. A magnetic storm is being played. 

At an altitude of 80-500 km, excited molecules and atoms of oxygen and nitrogen, that is, our atmosphere, begin to glow. In a collision, the nitrogen molecule shines red — if left in its original state, blue and purple — if it loses atoms. Oxygen molecules almost always stay with you, from them there is a red-green fire in the sky. The power of auroras is usually denoted by K and Kp-index, where 1 - everything is calm, 9 - electronics fails. It makes sense to pack a backpack to the north with K-index values ​​4-5 and higher. Among the auroras there are glimpses, spots, flashes, arcs, crowns, etc.

Photo: FieldsRadiance from space. NASA

The magnetic poles of the Earth are at a distance of ~ 12 ° from the geographic ones; therefore, auroras are visible at latitudes 67-70 °. During powerful explosions in the sun (approximately every 11 years - the so-called Schwabe cycle), the solar wind squeezes the Earth's magnetosphere so much that the magnetic lines of force in the auroral ovals are shifted to the equator. Then the radiance "tours" to more southern latitudes.

Abroad, the aurora is common in Finland, Sweden, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Alaska and Scotland. The most "brilliant" in Russia are the Murmansk region, the Republic of Karelia and Komi, the Arkhangelsk region, Taimyr, the Krasnoyarsk region. In the Far East, "fox lights" are regularly seen in the north of Yakutia, in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, and rarely in the Magadan region.

This is how the sky looks from the bottom of the Komsomol diamond career, Aikhal settlement, Yakutia.jpg
Photo: Pthe aurora from the bottom of the Komsomolsky diamond quarry in the village of Aikhal (the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Mirna area) 

The author of this photo Ruslan Akhmetsafin works as a power engineer at a local mining and processing enterprise (ALROSA). He says that in summer the white nights hide the lights in their edges, but in the fall and winter you can constantly see the "sky in diamonds". Only getting beautiful photos is not cheap: “To catch the radiance here is to freeze the ass, freeze the nose. In winter -40 - -45 ° - standard, and to -50WITH. The sun practically does not come out in winter, it rolls somewhere on the horizon. With a strong flash, it can shine at seven in the evening, but the brightest is usually from midnight to two at night. Many do not want to go beyond the usual, go to bed and everything. And at least I get up for work at 6 in the morning, but what should I do? Half-life chasing this miracle. ”

“It happens, a super forecast is given, and the sky is drawn out, then you tear your hair!” - continues Ruslan. This is a key point. Even with a powerful flash in the sun, the weather should be cloudless, or waste time. "The predictions of magnetic activity, I look at the site I am waiting for it to reach our 66-th latitude, then I check the usual, “human” weather. Two weeks ago there was a good glow over the village. The biggest K-index I caught was 8-9, when there was a red aurora, nitrogen was shining. In addition to our Aikhal in Yakutia, you can take pictures of the lights on the Olenyok, Anabar, Tiksi rivers, there is even more reach, ”he adds.

Photo: Ruslan Akhmetsafin, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

The best attribute for hunting for polar heat birds is a reflex camera, preferably with a full-sized, uncrowded matrix, and a tripod. First of all, you need to go into manual focus mode and take the value to infinity. “In addition, I advise beginners to take photos with a minimum shutter speed, so that the second is literally! The more exposure, the more everything will be greased in the frame in an incomprehensible spot. Photographing auroras is necessary at high ISO sensitivities; I usually use 800-1000 if the moon lights the landscape. And when it is darker on the street, I expose 2000 ISO. I open the diaphragm to the full, I have a maximum speed 2,8. Well, the exposition, if it is already completely dark on the street, you can put it in plus, so that everything that should appear and the “sole” light up a little bit, ”the Yakut photographer explains.


“In the evening, the sky above the ravine streaked the northern lights of such beauty that I had never seen before, although I lived 25 years in Chukotka! Pink ribbons ran through the entire sky from horizon to horizon with incredible speed. The radiance moved, disappeared, and the next second exploded in a completely different place with emerald light, on the tips of which blue and purple fragments shimmered. Everything was turning green in order to plunge into total darkness in anticipation of a new flash, ”recalls his journey to the Maly Anuy river in Chukotka Timur Akhmetov

On the river Small Anyuy Timur Akhmetov.jpg
Photo: Timur Akhmetov, PrJSC

An ecologist at the Kupol gold mine (Kinross Gold) is the author of cool auroral photographs, which, however, he never followed on purpose. “When you live in Chukotka, you don’t make a dream out of radiance. We just need to raise our heads! To find out the forecast, I fill in the kp-index in a search engine and see the result. In Chukotka, auroras are mostly green, multicolored are rare. The maximum index that I caught was 6. For a successful photo, everything is standard: a tripod, a wide-angle, and, preferably, the camera does not make noise at high ISO. Exposure at will: if you want to smear everything - set it to 30 seconds. If you want clear lines and a comb, set it to 5 seconds, no more. It is necessary to raise the ISO and open the aperture, ”advises Timur Akhmetov.

Mine Dome Timur Akhmetov.jpg
Photo: Polar lights over the mine "Dome", PJSC. Timur Akhmetov

According to the international scale, the luminous intensity is assigned from
I to IV points. The weakest reminds the Milky Way, the most powerful shines like a full moon in clear weather, and surprises with color transitions. With the IV-point shining video looks more advantageous than the photo.


Photo: Sergey Ogneznev, Magadan Region

On the Kolyma auroras rarely, but still happen. For example, in August 2015, photographer Sergey Ogneznyov and his family went to shoot the northern hemisphere constellation Andromeda, and unexpectedly captured the northern guest. “The glow for the Magadan region is not such a rarity, but since the clouds are constantly hanging over the Kolyma, it’s not very often that you see the glow,” the picture's author commented.
This is not the only message about auroras at lower latitudes. During solar activity, “plump” auroral ovals capture 20 — 25 ° to the south or north of their usual boundaries.


Space weather is observed by several observatories around the world, including Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska (USA), University of Lancaster, (Great Britain), Space Weather Forecast Center, (USA), as well as the Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radio Wave Propagation of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia). You can monitor solar activity using the mobile applications My Aurora Forecast, Aurora Notifier, etc.

Having decided on the forecasts and the region, it is important to find the “auditorium” for viewing atmospheric improvisations. It can be an open field, a frozen lake, a river or a hill. It’s better to look after the place and “aim” at the scenery while it’s light. Photographers should avoid the illumination of large cities, however, in the sparsely populated north of the Far East there are no problems with this, you do not need to move far from housing. This direction of tourism, set in a big way in Europe, where hotels with transparent walls are being built to observe the Aurora, is still wild with us.   

Also, experienced "catchers of radiance" recommend to be on the car, grab warm clothes, a thermos with hot tea, a snack and spare batteries for equipment - sometimes they wait for a nice shot for hours. In turn, the whistle that has begun can last from a few minutes and up to ... until your dismissal at work - unless you, as the heroes of this material, are lucky enough to live and work under a blazing sky.
Photo: Ruslan Akhmetsafin, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
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