Aurora Photos from Goochland County, Virginia

March 31, 2001

Photos Copyright 2001 William T. Hark


Click on the small image for a larger version.


An unusually large coronal mass ejection (CME) or solar flare struck the Earth's magnetosphere at 8 PM EST on March 30, 2001. It was blasted into space from near a large sunspot. The CME caused a geomagnetic storm with very bright and intense aurora. Norhtern lights or aurora borealis are rare in middle or southern latitudes unless there is a strong disturbance in the magnetosphere. Auroras were observed as far south as Mexico during the event. Strong magnetic storms can disrupt radio and satellite communications and even damage power grids.

The above photos were taken in Goochland County, Virginia about 20 miles west of Richmond along Route 250. The view is toward the north. I used an old Nikon FG with a tripod and cable release. I had Kodak Royal Gold 400 film which was later pushed to ASA 800. I either used a 50mm lens (f1.8) or a zoom at 28mm (f3.5). I'm not sure about exposure times. I bracketed from 10 to 30 seconds.

There may be more large solar flares and the possibility for southern views of the aurora borealis. The sun in a maxima of solar activity in an eleven year cycle. CNN will often report a new large solar flare a couple of days before auroras are triggered. Also see Space Weather and for updated auroral activity every five minutes, go to the STD Aurora Monitor . I checked this site before driving away from Richmond to look for the aurora.


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