The Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights – are among the most amazing phenomena a human being can behold. They are stunningly beautiful, and a marvelous context for exciting wonder, inspiring science learning, and presenting a supreme challenge for the art and technology of photography in extreme cold and dark conditions.
The Northern Lights Photo Expedition for Education is officially launched!! On the first night out together our team recorded the image at left (click on it to see larger version). We heard today that the Sun’s magnetic activity is picking up, and so we are hopeful for more.
Tonight (Tuesday 5 March 2013) is predicted to go to -35 F so we are putting on all the cold weather gear we have in hopes that it will be enough to protect us. We are even putting special camera “cozies” on the cameras to keep them warm and functional. We are about to go out now, as soon as I complete this first post from the base of our humble Super 8 motel in Yellowknife, capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories.
The three passionate science educators comprising the expedition team (shown in the photo below) share adventurous and hearty spirits. We are taking unpaid leave and vacation time to commit to this self-financed photo expedition to the Arctic to record the aurora for planetariums and schools, and to blog the adventure so that anyone interested can follow along in near real time during the period 4-16 March 2013.
Duke Johnson (at right with dark glasses) is our expedition leader. He holds a masters degree in space science, and is currently the education/exhibits manager at Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City. Duke is an award winning photographer, and you can sample some of his marvelous astrophotography here.
Yours truly (Dr. Cherilynn Morrow in the middle with purple hat) is leading the team’s public outreach and blogging initiative. My PhD is in solar physics and I have many years of experience teaching undergraduates and science teachers. I was a NASA senior scientist who advised educational efforts on several space missions. In 2007, I blogged the launch of Japan’s moon mission for the Planetary Society. More recently (June 2012) I served as an science and education commentator for the NASA webcast of the Venus transit from atop a Hawai’ian volcano, including the use of song and a Kinesthetic Astronomy demonstration. Duke and I share a passion for the joy and effectiveness of kinesthetic teaching and learning.
Will Stoll (at left in the photo above) is assisting the overall photographic and outreach mission. In particular, he is coordinating the educational outreach of our adventure to several K-12 schools. He is a high school physics teacher, experienced outdoorsman, world traveler, and a PhD candidate in science education. Will and I are collaborating on research related to study the pathways of graduate students into the field of solar and space physics.
The team convened in Yellowknife on the afternoon of Monday 4 March 2013. Duke had arrived the day before and met Will and I coming in from Calgary at the Yellowknife airport. He was driving our little blue Ford Focus rental car from Rent-a-Relic. Click on the image to get a somewhat closer view of the fresh faces of this promising team, joined together for the first time.
With our Kickstarter website, we are inviting our friends, extended families, and other interested folks to support us, either by tuning into this blog, and/or by offering a financial contribution to offset the rather extreme costs of even our most budget-conscious efforts to outfit and implement this expedition. We are pleased to offer you printed photographs of the aurora in return for your contributions. Please go to the site for further details.
We have many more ideas and insights to share as the expedition flows along, but now it is time to get dressed and get out there to Vee Lake (all frozen of course – we drive our little car onto it!) to a place we scouted out this afternoon where we will meet the clear and predicted cold of –35 F to see and record whatever amazing arctic lights we can!