Northern Lights: What’s this all about and why photographers chase this

Published September 30, 2020, 2:28 PM

by Johannes Chua

A Facebook post from photographer Edwin Martinez says: “Tonight (Sept. 29) in the Northern hemisphere is forecasted to have a G2 solar storm. The KP index is expected to be at level 6, giving some good aurora borealis show. What a way to welcome the Northern Lights season. Good luck to all chasers out there.” Martinez then also shares his photos of the Northern Lights taken in Iceland and Norway.

So what’s this all about? Why is this one of the “pinnacle” photo projects of a photographer’s career? With info from www.northernlightscentre.ca, here are some FAQs.

All photos by Edwin Martinez

WHAT ARE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as “Aurora borealis” in the north and “Aurora australis” in the south.

WHAT COLORS ARE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
Auroral displays appear in many colors although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
Northern Lights can be seen in the northern or southern hemisphere, in an irregularly shaped oval centered over each magnetic pole. Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colors.

Because the phenomena occurs near the magnetic poles, northern lights have been seen as far south as New Orleans in the western hemisphere. The best places to watch the lights are in the northwestern parts of Canada and Alaska. Auroral displays can also be seen over the southern tip of Greenland and Iceland, the northern coast of Norway and over the coastal waters north of Siberia.

Areas that are not subject to “light pollution” are the best places to watch for the lights. Areas in the north, in smaller communities, tend to be best.

CAN WE SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN THE PHILIPPINES?
No. Our country is just too far away from the south and north as we are located just north of the equator.

HOW COULD I WATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
If you don’t have the budget (it may cost $2,500 upward) to travel abroad (and since it is not yet time to travel), then the best way to see this spectacle is via the live cams of Explore.org.

WHY DO PHOTOGRAPHERS CHASE THESE LIGHTS?
The Northern Lights is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena that one can ever witness. Seeing it live — and being able to document it through photos or videos — is truly a wonderful experience. This is the reason why there are a lot of tours, specifically for photographers, who want to chase this Northern Lights.

People from all over the world travel to high northern latitudes to chase these auroras, which are sometimes unpredictable and erratic as the notorious Arctic weather. So that the thrill of the chase becomes an experience in itself.

The long flight, the sub-zero temperature, and the sleepless nights waiting and searching for the Northern Lights are all forgotten upon finally seeing this wonderful sight, which is part of the bucket list of a lot of people.

 
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