The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) are the result of electrons colliding with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. (Protons cause faint and diffuse aurora, usually not easily visible to the human eye.) The electrons are energized through acceleration processes in the downwind tail (night side) of the magnetosphere and at lower altitudes along auroral field lines. The accelerated electrons follow the magnetic field of Earth down to the Polar Regions where they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere. In these collisions, the electrons transfer their energy to the atmosphere thus exciting the atoms and molecules to higher energy states. When they relax back down to lower energy states, they release their energy in the form of light. This is similar to how a neon light works. The aurora typically forms 80 to 500 km above Earth’s surface.

I have been chasing the Northern lights from Southern Ontario since 2014. This was at the cool down of the 24th solar cycle. Great news, we are now on the upswing of the 25th solar cycle and the predicted peak is 2025. This means more sun spots and more solar flare energy with more chances of capturing the northern lights.  What we can see and what a camera can capture can be very different. My first captures of the northern lights were up in Minden. My exposures were to long and iso too low to capture ribbons of light but it was an exciting night.