Picket Fence Aurora Observed from Isle Royale, Michigan

October 04, 2018

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Photographer: Shawn Malone 
Summary Authors: Shawn Malone; Jim Foster

Shown above are photos featuring a magnificent aurora I observed a few weeks ago on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. I had taken a sea plane to Isle Royale for a short visit and was met by these breathtaking northern lights. Limited by weight restrictions of the plane, I used a flexible tripod to steady the camera on the seaplane dock in Tobin Harbor. Auroral activity isn't unheard of here in September but this event, above a Kp 3 level, was totally unexpected. I've never previously seen anything close to the intensity of the picket fence ray features. They lasted for a solid 45 minutes with light rays overhead and to the south. Note the aurora's reflection off the waters of Lake Superior.

I used a second camera with an 8 mm fisheye lens to record the all-sky view (bottom photo). This camera was laying on the dock and pointed straight up. For reference, the Big Dipper is at the bottom of the frame. As a bonus I was witnessing all of this from the tranquility of remote Isle Royale -- the only sounds heard were that of loons and migrating waterfowl. It was indeed a memorable night. Photos taken on September 13, 2018.