August 5, 2011 (Borrego) – Famed stargazing columnist/expert Dennis Mammana informs ECM that the aurora borealis, better known as the Northern Lights, may be visible tonight on the West Coast starting around 9:45 p.m.(View the "aurora webcam" in Alaska here)
“Sky watchers in Europe are getting one whale of an auroral display right now,” Mammana wrote at 3:45 today, adding that viewing will be best and high and middle latitudes, though the spectacular sky show is also expected to be visible at low latitudes.
Lights might appear from here as only a faint gray smudge against the dark sky. “Sometimes we can see faint color or even some vertical rays dancing back and forth in the northern sky,” Mammana’s website notes. “Moonlight can easily wash out any chance of seeing them.”
For best viewing, find a location away from city lights, such as the Anza-Borrego Desert.
Mammana offers these tips for photographers:
“Long exposure photos will often show red, green or blue in the lights. This is a good way to determine if it's auroral light or just distant light pollution. If you have a digital camera, take several shots toward the north; if you see evidence of any of these colors―or even signs of vertical rays―you may have an aurora brewing…To photograph the lights, use a normal or wide-angle lens and open the aperture all the way, set your ISO to 400 or so and, with your camera on a tripod, take exposures of 15-60 seconds. Of course this depends on their brightness and how fast they're moving. Don't be afraid to experiment to get the best shots.”
Read Mammana’s tutorial to keep track of conditions here (http://www.dennismammana.com/skyinfo/gazingtips/auroras.htm). The site includes links for viewing the aurora online at northern locations where more spectacular conditions are anticipated.