Early last week, there were a few very large flares on the surface of the sun. Each larger than the one prior, the flares ejected enough energy towards Earth that there was a promise of aurora. Some forecasts even had aurora visible as far south as northern California and Nevada.
Late Thursday evening, Goddess and I discussed the opportunity, and the likelihood that we’d be skunked, but it was a chance to get out into southeastern Oregon. The part of the state that most folks out this way don’t talk about.
“Because there’s nothing there”.
Some folks just don’t know how to look at things.
After a long day’s drive to Steens Mountain, we got out there just in time to start setting up camp before it got dark. After astronomical twilight passed, we had but 45 minutes before moonrise. That was our window to catch a glimpse.
We noticed a very diffuse glow along the northern horizon, from northwest to northeast, but nothing that would stand out as a definite observation. While taking pictures, I started to notice the moon rising to the east, some 20 minutes before we saw it. It wasn’t really visible to the eye, but quite obvious on 15 second exposures. The clouds over that direction helped with the effect.
The picture doesn’t do justice to the amount of stars we were able to see out there.
Our camp was at 7,400′ and, as is typical of a desert, very dry. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of smoke and haze in the area, thanks to the many wildfires burning in the surrounding states. You can catch a hint of that smoke in the reds near the moon and along the ridgeline to the left.
So while the aurora was a wash for us, the trip wasn’t. It’s an area I’ve been looking at for a while, trying to figure out a good reason to make a road trip out there. Well, other than making it a road trip. The promise of aurora was the trigger and even though we didn’t catch but maybe a hint, we’re glad for the trip. Many firsts for Goddess (like driving alongside a herd of wild pronghorn antelope) and hopefully enough of a hint of the beauty and history that she’ll be willing to go back.
Speaking of hints, that tree line is a grove of quaking aspen. Our campsite was among them and the mountain was covered in a patchwork pattern, each grove in a different stage of color, from normal summer greens to bright yellows to deep reds. An autumn worth of color in one spot.
Perhaps I’ll share.