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.
Three passionate science educators who share an adventurous spirit, are committed to a self-financed photo expedition to the Arctic (Yellowknife, CANADA) to record the aurora in images and video 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.
With our Kickstarter site, we are inviting our friends, extended families, and other interested folks to support us, either by tuning into our 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 (see further details below).
Aurora are ghostly, colorful, and dynamic patterns of light emanating from atoms and molecules in Earth's upper atmosphere that have been excited by collisions with charged particles from the Sun. The aurora occur in the polar regions of Earth 24/7, but can only be observed when skies are clear. They are especially active and dynamic when the Sun is magnetically active.
This project’s primary mission is to share this experience of the Northern Lights with younger people and others who remain touch with their child-like sense of wonder about our universe. The images and video we record will be used on our blog, in schools, and at planetariums.
Follow our blog at the link below, starting on 4 or 5 March 2013:
Our team consists of three passionate science educators who have the training and experience, as well as the professional connections to share the resources we record at all educational levels. We are all taking unpaid leave or vacation time to carry out our project.
Duke Johnson 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 at:
Dr. Cherilynn Morrow is leading our public outreach and blogging initiative. She is an expert in solar physics and has many years of experience teaching undergraduates and science teachers. She is a former NASA senior scientist who advised educational efforts on several space missions. In 2007, she blogged the launch of Japan's moon mission for the Planetary Society. More recently (June 2012) she served as a 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.
Will Stoll is assisting the overall photographic and outreach mission. In particular, he is coordinating the educational outreach to several K-12 schools. He is a high school physics teacher, experienced outdoorsman, world traveler, and a PhD candidate in science education.
Our expedition is to Yellowknife in the far Northwest Territories of Canada during early March (3/4-17). Yellowknife is almost to the Arctic Circle (~62 degrees north latitude). We are timing our visit to coincide with the rising solar cycle of activity and the best chances of clear and dark skies. Even so, Yellowknife can have lows down to -40 F (-40 C) at this time of year. Clear nights when the northern lights are visible are also the coldest nights so keeping our electronic gear "alive" and avoiding frost bite will be a challenge. Duke's spouse, Marsha, has custom designed and fabricated a set of "camera cozy's" to support the cameras, just as our new arctic boots and parkas will attempt to keep us cozy in the extreme cold.
We are sharing our experience in real-time through an educational blog and Skype sessions with several classrooms. Following our trip we will be providing footage to planetariums and conducting presentations to several schools and the general public.
First, it would be wonderful if you could join us by following and interacting with us on our blog, telling your friends about the site, and helping to spread the beauty and wonder that is the Aurora Borealis.
Second, the entire trip is self-financed, and it would be exciting if you choose to partner with us. Here at Kickstarter we are setting our goal at a modest $1000. While this will not even begin to cover the cost of even one of us, it is a realistic goal and hopefully allows more people to share in our experience. Any funds raised will go directly to our shared costs of transportation, lodging, and equipment. The funds will be evenly distributed among the three team members.
If you do choose to partner with us financially, we would like to send the first 250 partners who pledge $35 or more an 8x10 or 8x12 photo of their choice from our experience. In addition, we most likely will have an opportunity for you to purchase more of our work later.
Thanks so much for your interest and the privilege of allowing us to help spread the wonders of science!
Risks and challenges
The biggest obstacle is the weather. Just like any natural phenomena in the sky, seeing it depends on viewing conditions. We are maximizing our changes by planning our trip to minimize moonlight and maximize clear weather conditions. The next biggest obstacle is how many nights the aurora will be visible in a clear sky. Traveling around equinox helps maximize Earth's magnetic field alignment so that aurora is more likely but it also depends a lot on getting the needed influence from the sun. Also, Duke has led a similar effort in the past and we are using his experience to be as prepared as possible for weather conditions and extreme cold.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)