This was my first aurora display from Boulder, after living there for over a year. One of the main problems was getting to a good, dark location within a reasonable amount of time. There are some good places in the foothills west of town, but it is illegal to park in most of those places between midnight and 5am. However, one can get away with hiking in the middle of the night, although I think that is technically prohibited, too. (It's not actually signed as prohibited, though.) So, my local aurora site was on the northeast flank of Flagstaff Mountain, about 300 vertical feet above Eben Fine Park near the entrace to Boulder Canyon. The trailhead is a 20 minute walk from home, and in another 5-10 minutes, I'm at a good spot. It was a warm, breezy night and was about 75F while I was watching.
On this night, I arrived at my good spot at 3:45am, with a lot of clouds around. The skies slowly cleared from west to east over the next hour, until twilight washed out the sky. I shot a roll of film between 3:45 and 4:31, and the 9 photos on this page were taken from 3:49am through 4:25am. I was using Fuji Superia 800 speed film (you can find this film virtually everywhere). All the photos were taken with a 35mm lens set at f/2.8.
The first photo still shows a lot of clouds, with a faint auroral glow even with a 60 second exposure. At this time I could barely see the auroral glow. The second photo shows a 10 second exposure looking northeast at the northern half of Boulder from my site. The point-like lights in the sky are internal reflections in the lens of city lights, and the general glow is city lights reflected off the cloud deck.
The display started to get good at around 4:05, and the third photo was taken at 4:12. The remaining photos cover the next 10-15 minutes, with exposure times of 20-40 seconds. There were still a few clouds around during the whole display. Note that the orangeish color in the bottom right of the last two photos is due to city lights. The maximum height of the display was about 40-45 degrees.
Except at the very end, the aurora colors in the photos are not very vivid. I could start to see the colors visually around 4:35, but right as it was starting to get light, the display began fading. It's important to note that nearby city lights have a large effect on how well you will see aurora colors visually, but in this case the true colors of the aurora were generally weak as evidenced by the photos.
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File last modified: 01 December 2004