August 09, 2002
This remarkable photograph of the Northern Lights was captured on a summer's night, and not from a very northern location - outside of El Paso, Texas. Around 3:45 a.m. on August 12, 2000 beams of colorful light pierced the sky from the northeast, above the mountains at Hueco Tanks Historical State Park - 32 miles or about 51 km east of El Paso. A short time later, this aurora took the form of a shimmering curtain, accenting the northern sky. This display lasted for approximately 20 minutes during which time a meteor fell directly through the curtain and was caught on film (faint golden streak). The blue fringe of this aurora is likely due to resonant scattering, where the Sun shines over the top of the Earth and illuminates the aurora, causing selective scattering of its light in the blue and violet wavelengths. Weak emission of very high-altitude hydrogen may also play a role. This blue fringe is rarely photographed.
This year's Perseid Meteor Shower (peaking in the early morning hours of August 12 and 13) may be worth staying up for as well. Although don't count on seeing an aurora. However, since the Moon will have set by the time the meteors are easiest to view (after midnight), with clear skies, and if you don't live next to a mall, you might be able to see a number of "shooting stars." Good Luck!
Details of the above photo: PENTAX K1000 ON TRIPOD with 28mm wide angle Lens at f/2.8; Exposure Frame Number 16 on film roll EXPOSURE 20 SECONDS WITH CABLE RELEASE ON SHUTTER BUTTON - FUJI SUPERIA XTRA 800ASA FILM
415AM MST ; 12 AUG 2000.