Tag Archives: aurora

Holidaze Travel

The Aurora Winter Train, Alaska Railroad Depot; Fairbanks

I had several friends travel Outside over the Holidays, while I was quite content to enjoy the cabin life in Fairbanks. Getting out wasn’t the problem. It was getting back to Alaska which has proved challenging. Most friends had layovers in Seattle, which were long enough to officially be reclassified as detours. One had a detour in Anchorage; getting oh so close to Fairbanks, but yet divided by a mountain of snow.

Two friends attempted to travel from Arizona to Fairbanks. There was a detour in Seattle, followed by a last minute flight to Anchorage. A second detour was then encountered. All flights between Alaska’s largest cities were booked out for days. Determined to get home, they booked a ride on the Alaska Railroad. I was excited for them, probably more excited than they were. I have never ridden that set of rails in the winter.

Out of the blue, I received a text from them. They were in Denali Park. “How long is this ride?” they asked. I hesitated, but eventually told them it was a 12 hour trip. One way. The Alaska Railroad is not high speed travel.

Late on New Year’s Day, I get a call. Taxis from the depot are three hours out. It’s -35F, but I head out the door to provide pickup/limo service.

The locomotive did look good, all decked out in Christmas lights.


“Northern Lights Above a Cabin in Winter”

Oil on canvas by Jeanne Laurence (1887-1980); Undated

Nightlights

The Big Dipper behind a shimmering veil

“Northern Lights, Alaska Highway”

Oil on canvas, by Canadian artist Alexander Young Jackson, circa 1943

I must admit…

… this is an even better view of the Aurora than I have in Fairbanks.

Photo credit: NASA

Fairbanks retakes the lead

Graphic credit: National Weather Service – Fairbanks

I do realize that some people find the long summer days of Interior Alaska difficult to deal with. I am not one of those people; I absolutely revel in them. Arguably, the land of the midnight sun has the best summers and we have no shortage of activities to fill the many sunlit hours.

Graphic credit: NOAA

Officially, spring has arrived, but winter is not giving up just yet. Atqasuk on Alaska’s North Slope saw -53F on Sunday morning. The Interior was considerably warmer with Denali Park at -27F, Fort Yukon -13F and Fairbanks a balmy -8F.

As the graphic above illustrates, Alaska and Canada have had a string of amazing northern lights viewing. Even with the waxing moon, the aurora has been dominating the northern skies of late, putting on some impressive shows.


Light Side Up

The powerful lure of the aurora borealis:

Light Side Up trailer

After a year of planning, three photographers came to Fairbanks to attempt something never accomplished. They would try to “capture cinema-quality footage of the northern lights” from the stratosphere.

The new film from Lost Horizon Creative, documents the team’s efforts to overcome not only the technical aspects of filming above 100,000 feet, but also the incredible vastness that is Interior Alaska. The 30 minute short film is well worth viewing if you are even remotely into the aurora borealis, Alaska or photography.

The trailer for the film is above, the entire film can also be viewed on youtube.


Aurora Watch

There is a Geomagnetic Storm Watch in place for December 9-11. A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on December 7, and that explosion of energy is headed our way.

The aurora should put on quite a show over the next few nights for those of us in viewing range and with clear skies.

Fairbanks, which is usually dead center of aurora viewing, is actually on the northern end of the spectrum. Looking south for the northern lights!

Map credit: University of Alaska Geophysical Institute


Fairbanks Roundup

IMG_3427

Lots of sun, no sign of ice, but plenty of beaver sign

Summer.  The residents of Interior Alaska live for Alaskan summers.  The difference from winter to summer is extreme.

EXRtpO6UYAAa963

Aurora Forecast; Map credit Climatologist Brian Brettschneider

The Aurora viewing season officially came to an end on Sunday.  We have too much daylight, and will not have a chance to see the Northern Lights for 91 days.

EYO-ZEmUcAAFQOf

Credit: National Weather Service – Fairbanks

On May 15th, Fairbanks went into our summer period of civil twilight.  We have enough natural light to partake in outdoor activities 24/7.

May 18th is the average date for the final freeze of the spring months in Fairbanks.

From May 29th, until July 14th, the sun will set after midnight.

The Summer Solstice, Fairbanks’ favorite day, is on June 20th.

Night in Fairbanks will turn dark again on September 4th.  A sad day indeed.


PolarNOx at Poker Flat

2.-NASA-photo-by-Chris-Perry-333x500.jpg

Rocket Launch at Poker Flat; Photo credit: NASA/Chris Perry

NASA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute teamed up with some scientists from Virginia Tech University to launch a sounding rocket over the weekend at the Poker Flat Research Range.

The Polar Night Nitric Oxide (PolarNOx) experiment saw a hang fire on the first night of their launch window, but the rocket was launched successfully on the second night.

The aurora borealis adds nitric oxide to the polar atmosphere, and levels increase in the winter months, but then dissipate in the summer months, with the increase of sunlight.  Nitric oxide will destroy ozone under certain conditions.  The sounding rocket was launched to collect data to better understand the build up of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide exists between 53 – 93 miles altitude, with its peak concentration between 62 – 68 miles altitude.  The sounding rocket rose to an apex of 161 miles above the earth’s surface, before coming back down to our very frozen Interior.

84261399_2920808597941614_6268947815863418880_o.jpg

The landing pad; Photo credit: Poker Flat Research Range

For those who were up in the early morning hours to witness the launch, the rocket was seen from all over the area.  I had planned on being out there, but I was forced to make a quick run to the border instead.  At least I saw a lot of caribou.