Like almost every day, I carefully checked the forecast for auroras for the next few days. Activity was seemed quite high with a good chance to have a spectacle view even here in the south. Unfortunately, several days ago was cloudy and raining, and the only I could enjoy the beautiful spectacle was on meteorological cameras. Even though it was worth it.
But this time the weather got better, the sky was beautifully clear and I knew that if nothing else, the starry sky is really worth it. Forecast said, the biggest spectacle will start about 10-11 pm. From nine afternoon I occasionally checked the cameras and satellite cloud images. Sometimes at eleven, I finally found what I was looking for.
A careful study of graphs revealed to me, how is the reality. (I am learning how to read them.) Solar storm activity was just a little something, somewhere in the north and the cameras were saying that nothing is happening. Just Porjus in Sweden had on camera something which is for the most people not worth even look out of window. Then even something more to the south, on the camera located in Hankasalmi, which started to be interesting for me. Cameras in the nearby Tampere refused to cooperate, and when they started, there was nothing on them. Charts also showed no higher swings.
At a quarter to twelve I lost my patience, and after another 15 minutes I were on my way (with kickbike) somewhere into the darkness. Those, who know me, maybe they will immediately applaud me, because they know my great dislike to darkness. So … dislike to darkness are really weak words.
So I drove to places that I’ve visited on my trainings and thought, they will be good spots. A wide open field with stunning views to the north and minimal light pollution. But… I wasn’t able to reach them. Even after the first few meters, I began to feel uncomfortable, and when after about half a kilometer the lights along the way stopped be visible, I halted. I stared into the darkness and on the wall of trees and have been thinking.
And I got an idea. I do not have to immediately start running, if I didn’t learn how to walk. So I turned and headed for the fields on the other side, which I already knew perfectly, it was closer to it and only little time without light. And most importantly, any wall of trees. Even so, I was nervous as hell, and every leaf movement caused that I stared into the green, searching if I will see two little shining beads about two meters above the ground. Fortunately, the only shining beads were about 30 cm above the ground and it was a local shaggy cat.
I drove to the field, wondering where exactly is the north and where to stand. I had a really strong desire to try to photograph stars, for the first time in my life. I chose a bus stop next to the road. Cars are not frequent here even in the daytime, especially at night. Furthermore, I had my back protected against the cold wind.
Calmly, I played with the camera settings and found out how cruel is, when I have to improvise. With a bag of rice (I do not have a tripod here), I had arranged my camera to “look” somewhere at the sky and tried some photos. The result was really bad, but the for first attempt I cannot expect miracles. For a while I just quietly staring at the sky full of stars.
About an hour later I told myself that it might be time to go back. And then … I drove a while to the north. I began to wonder why the north is that bright, it wasn’t twenty minutes ago. I wondered if it’s just a light pollution, but previously there was nothing. For a while I’ve been just driving back and further, stopping and thinking. In the lamplight I did not see much, but as the light on the north faded, I came to the conclusion that it was probably just a lamplight.
So I started to go back to the campus and went several times to the field away from light. It looked strange. That light on the north, was there and another moment not. Several times I was ready to swear that it had a greenish color. Yet I continued to go back.
Only when I changed my point of view and in front of me opened really big area, I realized that the light is really changing. So I drove further into the field, shaded my eyes (bad ugly lamps) and turned to north. I’ve checked on the compass, if I am really looking north and my eyes don’t deceive me. So I was looking at “it”.
After a while I realized that I wasn’t dreaming at all. I was looking at the white glow (any cloud can move so fast) what was disappearing and after few seconds again reappearing. Sometimes even the whole forest shone, and it was like watching a lot of lightning from a huge distance, when it only lights up the horizon. But it just looked different. And the light rippled. Sometimes could be seen wavy lines and a “sparkle”. I was still wondering what I am actually watching, but it was amazing. Quite a large piece above the horizon, that moved very quickly, disappearing and reappearing again and again, sometimes with a greenish tinge.
I was able to stare somewhere to the north about 20 minutes. Several times the light was stronger and I thought that good strong spectacle will come, but then everything went out again and north darkened. I was about to turn back, but then again the horizon lit up and began to undulate. Several times I changed the location and was dreaming how it would look like about half a kilometer away from the lights and around me will be only very dark night, and only the rippling glow to the north. Maybe I’ll find out next time.
Edit: After I finished writing the article, I just have decided to return to the “crime scene” and try to take a picture. It’s pretty bad to try it without a tripod, and when lamp is shining from the side. So excuse the horrible quality of photos, but I have a proof! And also … camera sees better than me. These pictures are of something I did not really seen. And camera sees more green than I do. Additionally, pretty bad focusing on something what is not seen in the viewfinder