The dazzling display of the Northern Lights over New Brunswick captured on camera
The skies over New Brunswick dazzled photographers Sunday night as the Northern Lights shimmered and danced.
David Robins set up his camera for a long exposure on a tripod at Mactaquac Headpond after being informed in advance about the light show on the Aurora Forecast website.
“At first I thought the moonlight would overwhelm the display,” Robins told CBC News via a social media messaging app. “But I did notice the faint aurora moving south on the horizon, so I decided to stay.”
Robins is used to keeping an eye on the sky as a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. On Sunday evening his instincts served him well. Around midnight he got the shots he was hoping for.
“It then exploded into a great display for about five minutes at around 11:30 a.m.,” he said, adding that the display was worth the -20C temperature “and my freezing feet”.
Photographer Brad Perry also managed to capture some stunning shots. Like Robins, he relies on forecasts from websites and apps to let him know when to leave.
His camera captured photos of the Northern Lights from his home in Durham Bridge, about 20 kilometers north of Fredericton.
“The most exciting moment is when you take that first shot,” Perry said. “You’re looking out there at the horizon and you might see a little bit of a glow or something. But when you look back at the first picture, it’s like ‘wow!’”
Robins and Perry were just two of several photographers who were able to capture images of the Northern Lights over the weekend. And maybe there will be more opportunities in the coming days.
Chris Curwin, an amateur astronomer with the Saint John Astronomy Club and a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, said there could be another show Monday night.
Curwin says while it’s unusual to see vibrant Northern Lights this far south, New Brunswickers should keep their eyes on the sky for the foreseeable future.
“The Sun goes through an 11-year cycle and we’re approaching our maximum part of the cycle in 2025,” Curwin said. “And that means an increased amount of solar activity, or sunspots.
“Usually, sunspots lead to solar flares. Solar flares result in large amounts of plasma from the sun,” Curwin said.
“If we happen to be in the path of this material… our atmosphere will be excited by the charged particles coming in and exciting oxygen atoms and nitrogen, and that’s what causes our Northern Lights.”
“X-Class Solar Flare”
He says the sun was very active about three days before Sunday night, and the lights we’re seeing now are the result of that.
“Recently a so-called X-class solar flare was triggered, which is one of the most powerful solar flares,” said Curwin. “It released this big cloud of plasma and it affected our atmosphere and that’s what happened over the weekend.”
According to Curwin, it’s difficult to predict exactly how vivid the Northern Lights will be each night because forecasts are accurate only a few hours in advance.
For the best experience, it’s important to head to an area away from city lights and face north.