It’s that time of the year….the skies up north in Alaska are starting to get dark at night. And that means the Aurora photography season is soon upon us! I don’t know what it is, but aurora photography is addictive and a ton of fun…I can’t wait. I’m off to Iceland soon, and checking the sunset times (11pm) and sunrise times (4am), it looks like the sun will be down during the night. But the charts also show there is no true full darkness during this time, only nautical twilight. Can you still see and photograph the northern lights during nautical twilight? Yes!
First, a few quick definitions. Civil twilight occurs first after the sun does down, and is defined as the sun being 6 degrees above the horizon and ending at either sunrise and sunset. Civil twilight is beautiful for landscape images. Nautical twilight is next, defined as the sun being 12 degrees below the horizon…or in other words it is a little darker. Nautical twilight is often known as when sailors could see major stars for navigation…so you can see some stars during this time. And finally is astronomical twilight; the sun is 10 degrees below the horizon, and it is dark and you can see the stars.
The good news is you can photograph the northern lights during nautical twilight. In fact, some of the best displays I have seen have been in late August in Alaska. I’ll never forget sitting on the banks of the Noatak River in the Arctic watching an endless show of northern lights overhead in the dusky twilight of the evening. It wasn’t fully dark, but the aurora was impressive. Obviously brighter, active displays show up better during nautical twilight.
So I have my fingers crossed we will get some clear skies in Iceland. My aurora app tells me there is a huge geomagnetic storm coming next week, KP 5! I’ll be checking the skies all night!