Auroras have already put on some spectacular shows in 2015. The sun is approaching the end of its current solar maximum — the peak of a roughly 11-year cycle that influences aurora activity on Earth and other planets — but you wouldn't necessarily know it by looking at the skies lately.
A major geomagnetic storm triggered wide-ranging auroras on St. Patrick's Day, for example, one of the strongest such displays in years. And just a few weeks earlier, another storm cast vivid northern lights across central Alaska, where photographer Alexis Coram happened to be waiting for them. She captured those lights in the hypnotic time-lapse video above, which she released this week. That would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people, but for Coram it's starting to become a habit.
The San Francisco filmmaker also traveled to Alaska in early 2014, where she witnessed a wild northern lights show she described as a "party in the sky." Her time-lapse video of that display quickly went viral, racking up 242,000 views on Vimeo and inspiring Coram to go back for more.
"A year ago I had this crazy idea to take a trip to Alaska in the middle of winter," Coram writes on Vimeo. "Most people thought I was nuts until they saw the magical Northern Lights photography I captured in my time lapse film, 'Technicolour Alaska.' As I've connected with more people over the past year, I've realized how many people don't have the luxury of seeing these kinds of sights for themselves and just how lucky I am to be able to see it, and also to share it."
Traveling to see auroras is always a bit of a gamble, since the lights are caused by sudden eruptions of solar particles that only take a few days to reach Earth. Yet Coram tried again anyway, taking another trip to Alaska this February in hopes of reliving last year's magic. And despite the odds, it paid off.
"I spent 4 nights outside of Fairbanks in February — two of those nights were entirely overcast and not a light could be seen," she writes. "The other two nights were electrifying. I stood outside for hours — shooting and gazing in awe at the orchestral dance above and around me. I felt more awake than ever during those moments. I hope my interpretation in images portrays that feeling."
The recent spate of auroras, along with broader reporting of geomagnetic storms via social media, offers hope for more widespread aurora sightings before this solar maximum fades away. But even if not, videos like Coram's at least provide an eye-opening peek to tide us over until next time.
Related on MNN:
- 7 of the best aurora borealis videos from 2014
- After 4 years, photographer finally nabs northern lights
- Where are the best places on Earth to see auroras?