Witnessing the Northern Lights in Lantzville on Vancouver Island
I had been closely monitoring the Aurora app all day, eagerly watching the KP levels. A massive coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun had hinted at the possibility of witnessing the Northern Lights from our location. Around 7 pm, an alert from the app sealed the deal, and I hurriedly made my way to Lantzville Beach. A few fellow enthusiasts joined me on the shore, armed with comfy chairs and cozy blankets, just in case we were in for an extended night. The weather forecast had predicted clouds, but to our delight, the horizon remained clear upon our arrival.
It didn't take long for our camera views to come alive with vibrant colors. With an extended exposure time of 5-10 seconds, we could capture the ethereal green, purple, and occasional pink streaks in the night sky. I employed the astrophotography setting on my phone and patiently waited as the camera worked its magic for the next four minutes. The results were nothing short of breathtaking. The dance of colors in the time-lapse recorded by my phone was a visual feast.
There were moments when we could actually see the auroras with our naked eyes, though they appeared as faint white lights, unlike the vivid greens seen by the camera. As it turns out, our eyes struggle to discern the subtle shades of auroras. Nevertheless, the experience of seeing them on my camera screen was profoundly special. As the clouds gradually obscured the night sky, making the beach brighter and the colors less visible, we lingered until around 10 pm, when the clouds had nearly blanketed the entire sky. The peak of the KP was expected around midnight, but the overcast skies provided a convenient excuse to head home for some much-needed sleep.
Seeing the aurora borealis so far south is a rare treat, yet it seems like we're being graced with more opportunities lately. If you're eager to witness them in your area, start by downloading the Aurora app. Next, scout out a safe location away from light pollution, where you can patiently wait and watch. Even if you don't have a camera, your phone can capture these celestial wonders. If you're using a smartphone for long exposures, a tripod comes in handy. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the settings for long exposure night shots before you head out. If you happen to own a Google phone, you can even try your hand at astrophotography. Happy aurora hunting!
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