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Local star gazers treated to rare view of northern lights


Terry Atwood and his wife, Ruth, are not your typical star gazers, they use sophisticated telescopes and cameras to observe and record astronomical phenomena.
Following last April 8 solar eclipse, they awaited the arrival of an historic geomagnetic storm produced auroras that were predicted to be seen as far south as the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico. Anticipation to see the northern lights were Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, May 10-12.
An aurora, also commonly known as the northern lights is a natural light display in Earth's sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions around the Arctic.
Unusually large coronal mass ejections, the clouds of plasma and charged particles unleashed by solar flares on the sun, were expected to trigger the northern lights, making them visible to southern latitudes.
Shortly after sunset Friday night, May 10 (2024) Terry Atwood said he made a test exposure to see if any aurora would show up in a photograph, "because I was not seeing anything visually." The 3 to 5-second exposure showed the sunset to the left and faint pillars of pink and green in the cente, he said.
The photos he and Ruth took from their yard near Boxley were sent to the Shreveport-Bossier Astronomical Society newsletter editor Dr. Roy Parish for next month's newsletter. Exposures ranged from 3-seconds to 30-seconds.
"At first the aurora looked more like light pollution from a distant town to the north, then spread from the northwest to the northeast. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness the faint colors began to emerge as faint pinks and light greens. However, the wide-angle exposures of 5-seconds ranging to 30-seconds recorded the vivid colors and more detail. We were also looking through thin cirrus clouds with heavier clouds toward the southern horizon. Every direction I photographed recorded a red sky. The brighter red pillars formed directly overhead as well as through Virgo and Corvus to the south," Terry Atwood said.
On Saturday night May 11 (2024) Terry Atwood said he only recorded faint aurora ranging up to about 35-degrees above the northern horizon. But by midnight clouds had covered up much of the northern sky.