Sunset & Solar Storm – 31/10/21.

Sunset & Solar Storm – 31/10/21.

I have a passion for the Aurora Australias however, in Australia it is not so common to see them (at least in Victoria) unless they are fairly strong. Without going into too much detail an aurora is caused by electrically charged particles which are emitted from the sun known as solar wind, these charged particles are released from the upper atmosphere of the sun (and typically include things like electrons, protons and alpha particles) which travel through space (and often arrive at earth). When these particles reach the upper atmosphere of earth they interact with some of the molecules in the upper atmosphere which excites the molecules the charged particles interact with and causes glowing rings around the north and south magnetic poles (known as auroral ovals). When these excited particles decay back to their original state, they emit distinctive colors of light which is what we know as the Aurora.  In the Southern Hemisphere this is known as the Aurora Australias (or Southern Lights) whilst in the Northern Hemisphere it is known as the Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights)


Solar Flare

On the 28th of October 2021 an active region of the Sunspot Group AR12887 on our sun emitted an X1 solar flare which travelled towards earth at something like 2.5 – 3.3 million miles per hour (1,100 – 1,500 km/s). I went out on the night of the 30th of October thinking it might arrive then however, I got clouded out and the Aurora actually arrived on the 31st of October. I started to see color around midnight (from memory) on the 31st of October 2021 (or slightly before midnight) into the 1st of November 2021. It wasn't as strong as I (and many) had hoped but was still fairly impressive nonetheless.


The Location

The Aurora is typically not visible unless you are in a location with low light pollution, facing south and it is night time with little cloud cover and moon light (subject to the strength of the Aurora). I ended up in a location called the Koo Wee Rup Swamp Observation Tower. This is not an ideal location as it overlooks French island with some light pollution however, the aurora was still strong enough to see. I started before sunset as I figured at worst that would happen is I could get a time-lapse of Sunset, and if the Aurora happened then great, as it happened I managed to get both.


The Equipment

I captured a time-lapse which was shot with a Nikon D610 & Nikkor 16mm Fisheye, I used the Arsenal AI (first Gen) to shot the holy grail time-lapse which consisted of a shot roughly every thirty sections or so. The device changed the camera settings so suit the amount of light but by the time the Aurora hit I think it was about 30 seconds, f/2.8 and ISO 1600. The camera was attached to a Platypod Max which was strapped to the rail / post of the observation tower.

I also captured some still shots with my Sony A7R IV and Tamron 28-75mm (f/2.8).

The time-lapse was edited in Lightroom CC and LR-Timelapse whilst the other photos were edited in Lightroom.


The Timelapse

Below is the time-lapse I captured, this captured sun-set (facing south) as well as the aurora, wait around until the end of the Time-lapse for the Aurora. I haven't done many time lapses so forgive the flickering and slightly poor execution. Also, apparently my camera sensor is filthy and picked up a heap of dust (hence the spots at the start you can see).


To give some context, below is an image of where I was set up, it was on the observation tower (square) towards the end.