Alexandria, VA


Aurora Sightings

30 Oct 2003, College Park, MD

[This text was sent to along with some pics] Ohmigosh! What an evening! Had a gut feeling that tonight would be great so I headed over to the campus observatory about 6pm (Univ. of Maryland Observatory, just inside I-495 aka the Beltway). It was still dusk of course, but the north was purplish. One of my assistants and another professor were already there just setting up scopes, but I dragged them out and they concurred that the aurora was visible. (We also saw some last night 29 Oct between 7:50-8pm). As the evening progressed the show got better. I've attached 3 pics from the most spectacular display (very intense red), but later on we saw the aurora extend pretty far south with a few green swirls overhead and south of the zenith. In fact, we thought it was getting foggy at first until we realized how the coloration was changing! At one point, I could've pointed the camera pretty much anywhere in the sky and have gotten the aurora! The most spectacular displays were between 6:30ish and 7:45, but there was pretty much a dim red glow to the north all the way until 8:45pm (when I left to come back to my office to download and send pics to you!) and probably still is but I can't see it here on the main part of campus with all of the building lights.

These images were taken with a Canon D30 camera with a 28-135mm lens set at 28mm, about 10 sec exposures in raw mode. (I also took some pics with slide film but those will have to wait until tomorrow!) I talked to my dad in Murfreesboro, TN, and he also saw the displays as well as to a friend in SC (cell phones are great!). Another friend headed out to Haymarket (?) and will hopefully be sending in some pics as well!

Click on image for a larger
version (2+MB!) of this animation.

29 Oct 2003, College Park, MD

My funny story... Was at the observatory helping a group of students out on their satellite observing project. After they finished and left about 7pm, I started to do some imaging just to practice with the equipment, etc. Meanwhile a lab class was arriving over at the lecture hall. Then I hear kids voices so I go out and there's a guy walking up with his 2 kids. We get that alot -- people coming in to the Observatory if they see the gate open... we usually close the gate behind us for safety reasons... Well, I was going through my spiel (we're not open to the public tonight, you'll need to leave; these TAs are paid to teach their lab, not give tours' etc...) walking them back to the car when I look to the north... Now I've been staring at a computer screen with the red light setting so my vision is kinda screwy but there was something odd about the north. I asked the guy, he didn't notice anything at first, but then the display started to brighten a little, at least become more obvious. I went in to the lecture hall and hollered for that lab to come out, went a grabbed the Dr. Wellnitz who was working on the 20" telescope, and grabbed my camera. So it was kind of bad because I was telling the guy that the liklihood of us seeing anything from the Observatory would be very small and then we see the aurora! As soon as I get my slides back and scanned, I'll try to post something here.

24 November 2001, Westcliffe, CO

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Last Updated:  Monday January 14, 2008 by Elizabeth Warner

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