By Guy Page
The Northern Lights – the awesome aurora borealis – appeared in all their glory last night over Lake Champlain. And one of Vermont’s foremost photographers was there to capture them.
The Aurora Borealis are the result of interactions between the Sun and Earth’s outer atmosphere, according to the National Weather Service. The Sun emits electrically-charged particles called ions, which correspondingly move away from the Sun in a stream of plasma (ionized gas) known as the solar wind.
As the plasma comes in contact with the Earth’s magnetic field, the ions will be agitated into moving around the Earth. Some of the ions become trapped and will consequently interact with the Earth’s ionosphere (an average of 60-80 miles above the surface), causing the ions to glow. This is the same principle as how a neon sign lights up. As electrons pass through the neon tubing, they glow, thus producing the light in a neon sign.
Many native, lifelong Vermonters have never seen the Northern Lights on full display. That’s because Vermont is just a little too far south of the North Pole to experience the aurora borealis often. It’s far more common in northern Canada and Alaska. The last appearance was in late March of this year. Unfortunately, both sunlight and clouds impair viewing. Ideal conditions are a clear, cloudless, night, the less moonlight the better.
Ace photog Adam Silverman, a former Burlington Free Press reporter/editor/photographer who is now the press contact for the Vermont State Police, routinely takes stunning pictures of Vermont. His work can be seen on Adam Silverman Photography. Last night’s work was extraordinary, even for him.
Silverman recounted his experience in an Adam Silverman Facebook page post this morning.
“We were treated to a stunning and somewhat unexpected display of the magnificent northern lights here in northwestern Vermont last night! A solar storm was predicted to hit Earth late Wednesday night into Thursday, but it arrived later than forecast, striking during the daytime here on the East Coast.
“I watched with a bit of frustration throughout our daylight hours as various data points indicated a tremendous aurora borealis show was underway throughout the dark northern and southern parts of the world — but as night approached the Northeast, all those indicators suggesting a vivid display began to move in the wrong direction. Still, I wasn’t about to pass up even the slimmest chance to see one of the most magical natural phenomena, so as twilight finally arrived, I headed over to the shore of Malletts Bay on Lake Champlain in Colchester with a couple photographer friends, pointed my camera to the north, and waited for dark to engulf the scene completely.”
Great photography is about waiting forever and then capturing the moment.
“A faint green glow was apparent low on the horizon, and wait, was that a bit of purple just above? All the data suggested the storm was wrapping up, but somehow the northern lights were intensifying here,” Silverman said.
“And then suddenly BOOM — the sky exploded with a dazzling display of green, magenta and purple aurora! The pillars leapt into the heavens and brushed the clear, starry sky, visible to the naked eye! We yelped with delight as we frantically took as many photos as we could, marveling at the beauty of the scene and amazed that despite everything that pointed to a disappointing outcome, we were instead enjoying an intense light show. This was definitely one for the books!”
Silverman’s stunning photo of the Northern Lights over the inner bay of Malletts Bay can be seen on Facebook. Reader photos of last night’s Northern Lights would be most welcome.