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Welcome to the "2004 Alaskan Aurora Borealis" gallery of astrophotographs.com!

The photographs below are my most recent efforts. Included here are photographs from the 2004 Aurora Borealis display as seen from various Alaskan locations in the evening and early morning hours of late March, 2004.

My wife's and my goal was to travel to Alaska during the most prolific Aurora season, which is either March or September, approaching the equinox. It is generally accepted that a location near Chena Hot Springs, AK (approx. 60 miles east and a little north of Fairbanks) is "Aurora central," so to speak. The various complex reasons for this phenomena can be explored by linking to the below-listed scientific Aurora site.

The Aurora -- Information and Images -- is the site related to the Poker Flats research facility in Alaska, but also includes general information concerning Aurora and an excellent FAQ section. Also highly recommenced is the daily Aurora prediction link.

Access Chena Hot Springs Resort to learn more about the features of this Aurora-centric resort facility.

(above photographs courtesy Chena Hot Springs)


Once arriving at Chena, we immediately were inundated by a plethora of activities, many supporting the Hot Spring's optimum location for Aurora viewing. They have on premises the "Aurorarium," a modest A-frame structure with very large northeast-facing windows -- the proper configuration for viewing the Aurora from this spot on Earth. Also offered are nighttime snow coach rides to a very remote (heated) yurt (see it left-center -- blue snow coach in middle -- in photo above) on a nearby ridgetop, where 360-degree views afford excellent Aurora viewing and photographing options. The heated yurt also provides some comfort when the thermometer dips to minus 20 degrees F, as it did when we visited!

Further, guests of the resort can merely go outside and look up (or walk a short distance to the darker airstrip) to view and photograph the Aurora. We saw the Aurora all 3 nights we stayed, one night even through clouds! [There are many daytime activities as well, including especially dogsled rides and cross-country skiing options. The actual Hot Springs are relaxing and very scenic as well. The pipe-dream-like Ice Hotel also is at Chena, replete with beautiful ice sculpture, overnight rooms including solid ice beds equipped with caribou hide blankets (are you kidding?) and exterior insulation to allow the "Hotel" to reputedly "remain" through the summer months!?] The facilities also include a serviceable restaurant and lounge -- the latter features the playing of a full selection of (only) Eric Burdon's hits, aired constantly! But we (and many guests -- a full half from Japan!) are drawn to this location because of the opportunity to experience the Aurora Borealis.

All the photographs below were taken with either a 35mm Pentax Spotmatic or Pentax 6X7 camera mounted on a traditional tripod. Lenses varied from standard to wide-angle -- this detail is noted on the individual image pages. Film was Kodak Portra ISO 800 color negative film, developed normally. All exposures were 60 seconds or less. Approximate times are noted on the individual image pages.

The thumbnail photographs seen and linked here to larger versions represent the very best of quite a few Alaskan Aurora images we obtained. Because we observed the Aurora on all four nights while in Alaska, I have included other photographs obtained on this trip to present a more complete Aurora experience for those interested. These links and specific details are noted both below and on the individual image pages.

To further explore the "Something New" section of astrophotographs.com please use the various navigation strategies below the photographs.

Click a photo below for a larger view and detailed information about how, when and where it was taken. The 2004 Alaskan Aurora Borealis astrophotography is available via telephone ordering as noted below.



On Thursday, March 18, 2004 we arrived in Fairbanks, rented a car and drove to our selected B&B. After arrival, we "scouted" for a slightly out-of-town location to view and photograph the Aurora. Our selected spot was along the Chena Ridge / Chena Pump Road. The photographs below and on the linked pages were taken with the 35mm Pentax rig noted as above equipped with a 28mm f/3.5 lens or 50mm f/1.4 lens -- most exposures were in the neighborhood of 45-60 seconds. The ambient air temperature was somewhat below zero, perhaps minus 5-10 degrees F. I have chosen to label these photos as taken on 3/18/04 --and have also chosen to use this nomenclature throughout the presentation -- when in reality many shots were taken at midnight or slightly after. In general we found the Aurora to be most active between 10 P.M. and 2 A. M. local Alaskan time.

Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the selected photograph.

(Additional photos from the March 18th Aurora experience can be accessed by using this text link to a supplemental gallery.)



After a night filled with some spectacular Aurora (and a breakfast experience filled with the grating "live" violin sounds of the B&B's owner's daughter), we leisurely drove out to Chena Hot Springs (some 60 miles NE of Fairbanks and on a well-maintained paved road) on Friday, March 19, 2004. Upon arrival and check-in we signed up for the Aurora snow coach ride leaving the resort at 10 P.M. and driving to the remote (and light-pollution free) Charley Dome. Upon arrival that evening at the ridgetop, we were immediately greeted with many amazing Aurora -- the display reached a crescendo sometime after midnight of the minus 20 degree F night. Following some momentary viewing (and almost immediate battery freeze-up of their digital cameras) many of the tourists took up semi-permanent residence in the heated yurt -- I'm proud to state that we were outside (and comfortable in our rented arctic clothing!) throughout almost the entire night (perhaps 5 hours). Below are a selection of the "Greatest Hits" photographs from that awesome Aurora experience.

Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the selected photograph.

(Additional photos from the March 19th Aurora experience can be accessed by using this text link to a supplemental gallery.)


On the evening of Saturday, March 20, 2004 we briefly visually observed the Aurora (quite bright) through a layer of clouds, a very short walking distance from our room to the Chena airstrip. (It took longer to get dressed than to walk to the airstrip!) That night we got some much-appreciated sleep. No photos were taken.



On the evening of Sunday, March 21, 2004 we again signed up for the Aurora snow coach experience and arrived at Charley Dome and the yurt at about 10:30 P.M. It was a quiet Aurora evening (for Chena and Alaska) but warm -- perhaps plus 15 degrees F. We leisurely took some photos, laid back on the snow (very comfortable) and simply enjoyed the moderate display. We both felt this was a wonderful conclusion for our very fortunate Alaskan Aurora experience. Below are several photographs from that evening's display.

Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the selected photograph.

(Additional photos from the March 21st Aurora experience can be accessed by using this text link to a supplemental gallery.)

 

Click on this text or the "Something New Galaxy Icon" to the left to be transported to astrophotographs.com newest gallery of stunning Alaskan Aurora Borealis astrophotography -March, 2004.

 

Click on this text or the "Something New Galaxy Icon" to the left to be transported to astrophotographs.com gallery of stunning red Aurora Borealis astrophotography -- November, 2001.

 

Click on this text or the "Something New Galaxy Icon" to the left to be transported to astrophotographs.com gallery of Leonid meteor shower astrophotography -- November, 2001.

 

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All images and narratives copyright Willis Greiner, all rights reserved.

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