Being Watched

By: LeRoy Zimmerman


Region: Polar Regions

Site: Fairbanks - Alaska - USA


Northern lights in Alaska. Aurora is a natural colored light display in the sky, particularly in the polar zone, which is produced by the collision of charged particles from Earth's magnetosphere, mostly electrons but also protons and heavier particles, with atoms and molecules of Earth's atmosphere (at altitudes above 80 km). The particles originate from the Sun and reach the Earth in the stream of solar wind. As noted by the photographer "I was standing on frozen Smith Lake, on the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Facing out to the west, it was a joy to watch the smoothly moving bands gently fold and bend in the night sky as they ran over my head. Ripples moved along the hanging curtains, as if being blown by some invisible wind. Does the aurora know when it is being watched? Did it know I was standing on the lake with my camera, catching its light to hold forever? Did the aurora know that its dance was being witnessed by a single small beam of light off to the right, just standing perhaps 50 miles north of the display itself? Yes, the aurora was being watched that night, not only by me on the frozen lake, but by another small beam of envious light off to the north that was probably not even noticed by most. We were all watching the show." LeRoy Zimmerman/

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