Beautiful green aurora reflected in the still waters of English Bay. And all because I went out onto the balcony to watch the International Space Station sail by…
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve missed seeing the aurora in Vancouver. The one that still annoys me is the spectacular display on Thanksgiving 2012, the day we went home after a weekend backpacking at Garibaldi Lake (mentioned in my earlier post, Long Exposure). But last night I got lucky.
Earlier in the evening, I’d stepped out onto our balcony to look at the crescent moon slipping towards the horizon, when I noticed something bright in the sky, and moving from west to east. I looked over to Jupiter to compare its brightness and quickly realized that it must be the International Space Station (ISS). I watched it drift overhead (I always want to wave to the astronauts…) and then went back inside. I checked the timing and found I was right, and of course that the next sighting would be in a little over 90 minutes’ time.
Well, by now, it was getting late, and we had closed the balcony door as the apartment had finally cooled to a reasonable temperature after a hot sunny Saturday. But just at the time of the next flyover, I decided to go back out and look for the ISS again. Sure enough, there it was, its arc passing a little further north than earlier taking it a few degrees higher than the pole start. And then I did a double take: was that a green glow over the mountains? Maria confirmed that I wasn’t seeing things. I’d seen the alert from spaceweather.com but dismissed it on account of so many previous false alarms (Vancouver is not a great aurora-viewing spot for a few reasons). Yet there it was before my eyes: a faint green sky.
There was no question in our minds: grab the camera, tripod, and a jacket and walk down to the beach. The water was the flattest calm, it was a balmy evening (well, morning by this time I suppose), and we were treated to a gorgeous auroral display, which I photographed until the camera battery ran out. I think I have a few I’m happy with, though I would have loved to have been able to take a time-lapse as we could clearly see movement. Maybe next time.
Make no mistake: it’s never as in-your-face-green as the photographs, and it was evident to us that the young folks partying on the beach had no clue about the aurora. (At one point, we were approached by one of them, and I expected a question about the aurora or the photography. But all they wanted was a cigarette. And they sounded so disengaged that we decided it wasn’t even worth trying to point out the green sky.) But it was obvious to us, we had a near-perfect spot to capture it, and it was a very peaceful hour on the beach.