Monday, March 30, 2015

Extremely Brilliant Aurora

In March 17,  a massive solar storm ranked as G4 geomagnetic storm bombarded the earth, which triggered another brilliant auroras right over our city and even in other parts of the world, like northern United States and Canada.

According to one skywatcher-photographer in our province, Västerbotten, his aurora activity scale registered an index of 8 kp, so extreme that even at 6:00 p.m. that day while it was still bright, he could already see traces of the lights in their place. 

It was when I came  home after our meeting at the KH that I had the chance to watch it right from our backyard. I started seeing the lights a few minutes before 9:00 p.m. and kept watching until 10:30 p.m. 

I'm describing this aurora "extremely brilliant", which sounds redundant because brilliant may be the highest level of brightness and thus need not have the intensifier "extremely". On the other hand, extremely could refer to the extreme degree, such as in 8 kp index, of this night's northern lights. 

The lights proved to be so brilliant and immense that I could only photograph fragments, as always. They also danced in circles around the sky and covered the whole sky from my vantage point, which made it impossible to shoot the whole of the show even with a wide-angle lens.

So once more, I want to showcase my fragmentary captures in this post. I know they're nothing compared to the jaw-dropping, mind-blowing photos that have swept the cyberworld during this particular period, but I feel euphoric to have my own humble pictures too. But then again, the paramount thing is that I was able to watch the breathtakingly colorful lights dancing throughout the expanse.

(Note: these were taken with a compact camera mounted on a tripod set to auto at 15 sec exposure)

auroral corona

 auroral corona

more auroral corona captures

I also used my mini point-and-shoot camera without tripod in this set of images.

Thanks for dropping by. I hope you enjoyed the show. Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Tale of Early Spring

It began in the air. The wafting piney scent reached my olfactory sense and sparked that kind of feeling which was characteristic of spring. I can't exactly describe the feeling, one must personally feel it to understand that spring is truly in the air despite the presence of snow mounds everywhere.

The movement of the sun also heralded the approach of spring. It has started to rise higher in the sky, making the mornings and afternoons brighter and daylight longer.

I could feel the pleasant warmth of the sun as it slid slowly across the blue sky.

Our sleeping solar-powered garden lamps came back to life as the sun recharged them.

I watched these great tits from our window one misty morning and I imagined them as singing of the arrival of spring.

One windy day when the clouds raced swiftly and unveiled the sun hidden behind the thick clouds. That bright disc kept appearing and disappearing but could not completely get rid of the murk. 

And then came the 22 degrees halo around the sun.

These sights met my eyes, first at early morning as I stepped into the building where I work, then later as I stepped out of my work place before noontime.

On my way to another work, I spotted three of these unfamiliar birds perched on the highest twigs of a towering tree, so high that I couldn't really see how they looked like. Two of them flew away as I stopped to look while one stayed. I slowly fished my camera out of my backpack, wishing that the bird wouldn't be scared. I zoomed in to that little yellow speck against the blue sky. Ta-da! Captured! I googled for the name, and European serin (also a kind of finch) Eurasian siskin turned up. (Corrected by a seasoned birder who visited my cyberhome and updated March 21) I felt elated! And yes, as the third pic shows, it was singing! Ah, the music of spring!

Other birds I captured during those fine days of early spring.

One cloudy but semi-warm day when I noticed the rainbow-colored reflection of the peering sun on the huge puddle of melting snow.

While the ground was still blanketed with snow and spring bulbs were still sleeping, our indoor flowers already started blooming again as sunshine streamed richly through our window panes.

Bought these pot-grown mini-daffodils for our dining table. One of my well-loved spring bulbs.

The early days of spring came to be erratic, such as sunny one day, then a bit rainy the following day, or snow-dusty . But since the temperature held above zero for seven consecutive days, which is the criteria for determining the presence of spring, authorities announced that springtime had come to our province.

And so, I have to say a late goodbye to winter through these images of the last heavy snowfall in our city. It's a playground close to our apartment.

We have been flooded with lots of sunshine recently. The heaps of snow are rapidly thawing. The trees are thickening as the slender twigs start budding out.

Welcome spring! May you shower us with all the wonderful things that our loving and generous Creator brought to existence from the beginning.


Friday, March 6, 2015

The Lights of Winter Night Sky

Unless the sky is quite overcast, winter night or evening skies become a showcase of lights in various forms. You'd surely find me standing in our backyard or somewhere in our neighborhood when our back porch is buried deep in the snow, mostly accompanied by my camera mounted on a tripod.  My head is untiringly bent toward the sky, my eyes scanning the space visible from my vantage point.

There's always something of interests during those nights. Sometimes when I expected to see some predicted sky events which didn't turn up, another phenomena would show up instead. Even when there are no spectacular shows for skywatchers on some nights, there are always those twinkling lights of the constellations. Looking at those stellar lights is actually looking billions of years into the past. Isn't that amazing?

Here are some of  my sightings during January and February evenings/nights:

(NOTE: I captured all of these with my simple compact camera with 24x zoom. You may click on the pictures for larger viewing)



the ORION and TAURUS constellations

the MOON and STARS amongst the diaphanous CLOUDS

a composite of constellations - ORION, TAURUS, PLEIADES, GEMINI, etc.

STARS among streaks of AURORA BOREALIS

the waxing CRESCENT MOON captured two nights after the so-called Black Moon of February 18


I, the incurable skywatcher, backyard astronomer and "space explorer", stand in awe as I gaze at these sparkling lights that adorn the winter night skies....

....And I muse on their significance.

"He made the great lights, 
For his loyal love endures forever.
The moon and the stars to rule over the night,
For his loyal love endures forever."
- Psalm 136:7,9

"When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers,
The moon and the stars that you have prepared,
What is mortal man that you keep him in mind,
And the son of earthling man that you take care of him?"
- Psalm 8:3,4

True, we're just diminutive beings compared to all these colossal celestial lights, yet our Creator's love for us is much more surpassing than all of these. By putting all these things in the sky, he demonstrates his power, which is an assurance that he will fulfill his grand purpose for mankind, such as the one described here: A Peaceful New World—Will It Come?  Surely, he keeps us in mind and takes care of us!