Friday, March 9, 2012

No Northern Lights

   On March 7th the Sun unleashed an X-5 class flare that had the potential to interact with the Earth's magnetic field and among other things create favorable conditions for a Northern Lights display.  Having the night off from work I was free to head out to Lenawee County to try to view and photograph a rare show.  Why Lenawee County?  It contains the nearest Dark Sky Preserve at Lake Hudson State Recreation area.  I packed up some photo gear and headed out there.
  The partly cloudy skies I saw at my house as I was packing, dissipated  during the 80 minute ride so that I was greeted by clear skies upon arrival at Lake Hudson.  I quickly set up and started experimenting to find the optimum camera settings. With a 15mm lens I was able to fit the constellations Orion, Taurus (including the Pleiades star cluster)

(L to R)Orion, Taurus, Pleiades, Jupiter and Venus
  One thing I had working against me was the full moon had just risen and decreased the contrast between the background sky and any celestial objects.  As the twilight faded as much as the moon would let it, it became apparent that the Aurora was not visible.  Sometimes an auroral display too faint for visual detection can be picked up by a camera.  I decided to aim the camera north to try my luck.

Polaris (North Star) near center at top.
    It was not to be.  My travel companion for the evening was my dog Roscoe.  What better foreground object in a photo of the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog) than a Canis Lupus Familiaris (actual dog).   Little known fact is that Roscoe was Valedictorian of his obedience class by completing the command walkthrough  the fastest.  He may pull your arm off when going for a walk but he's a world-class 'stay-er'.

Roscoe sitting still for 13 seconds

Can you pick out Canis Major? It's to the upper left as indicated in the photo below.  It contains the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, the dog star.