Home of the Northern Lights

By Jan Curtis

These images are intended for non-commercial, educational uses and are
copyrighted (2003 Jan Curtis).

February 18-March 1, 2003 IMAGES

As luck would have it, after my return from Fairbanks in March 2002, I received a phone call from the owner of Passport To Knowledge asking me if I would be interested in serving as technical advisor to an "Aurora Live" production in February 2003 in Fairbanks and at Poker Flat. How could I refuse this great offer?

A week before my arrival in Alaska, Fairbanks experienced three consecutive days with rain and freezing rain, unheard of in February. Was this trip going to be a complete bust due to El Nino or global warming? Well, despite starting my photography sessions under a full moon, clear skies prevailed for the first few days of observing.

When I arrived in Fairbanks after midnight on the 18th, I witnessed a faint double arc for a few minutes on my drive to the hotel. That was basically it for the first night. On the next night, I travelled back to my old home viewing location and observed a weakening display (around 11:30-11:45 PM on the 17th (local time)):

  • band with full moon
  • band with moon lit skies

    Then upon returning to the very well lit parking lot of the hotel (1:00-1:20AM, 19th (local time), activity intensified to sub-storm levels:

  • several curtains
  • courtyard in natural and artifical light
  • courtyard: another curtain
  • lights and moonlight no match

    During this trip, I forgot several rules to successful night photography. The one that cost me the most was not taping my lens focus to infinity. However, despite losing several nice photos during an unexpected aurora storm on the morning of 26 February, I did manage to capture a few interesting forms:

  • a wavy curtain
  • a wavy curtain
  • curtain separates
  • curtain with sharp folds...a bit unfocused
  • bright curtain
  • nearing climax
  • nearing breakup

    During my last night in Alaska (28 Feb-1Mar), I traveled to Poker Flat for our second live broadcast to Oakland, CA and Baltimore, MD on PBS and the NASA channel. As luck would have it, cloudy skies cleared between midnight and 1AM and everyone was treated to the best aurora display during our two week stay in the Fairbanks area. Below are some examples of photos taken with my Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 lens, Nikon FM10 camera body, and Kodak Max 800 and Fuji Superia 400 films. Exposures ranged from 5 to 10 secs at F/1.4 and F/2.0. The bluer Fuji film is quite noticeable.

    split bands
    band with rays
    split curtain
    evolving curtain
    active sky
    bright band edgewise
    wavy curtain
    folding curtain
    quiet moment
    southern band with clouds
    typical display
    bright curtain
    rayed curtain
    uniform arc
    multiple bands
    bright complex curtains
    a few seconds later

    My thanks goes out to all the staff at Poker Flat for making my visits both enjoyable and educational.

    To my 1998 images.
    To my 1999 images.
    To my 2000 images.
    To my 2001 images.

    Since 16 August 1999

    Return to: Aurora's Northern Nights

    Last updated: 10 March 2003