Shelby: The Northern Lights, a colorful light show caused by the sun’s magnetic field, are often jaw dropping. But once every decade, the sun’s polar magnetic field flips. It sounds a little confusing, but when that happens the Northern Lights can be even more brilliant. It is really rare to get a glimpse of the light show and even harder to capture it on film. So, that is what makes the pictures you are about to see so spectacular. Scott Evans has the story.
Scott: Photographer Dave Parkhurst carries his camera into some of the most remote places in Alaska. He waits for the sun to go down and the lights to come on. He has captured some of the most stunning images of the Northern Lights.
Dave Parkhurst: The scientific term is Aurora Borealis, which is the goddess of light. It’s totally spiritual because it’s so powerful. It’s beyond your imagination.
Scott: When Dave moved to Alaska in 1981, people told him about the light shows. They also said don’t bother trying to photograph it because trying to capture the light show on film was nearly impossible for most.
Dave: It’s kind of a fickle light. Film got better and is better than it’s ever been now. You only have seconds. When they explode they can cover, you know, 180-degrees of the sky in a few seconds.
Scott: Even when conditions outside hit 58-below zero, he was still out there watching for the lights.
Dave: I tell people it’s angelic. It’s something that is indescribable to some point unless you’re underneath them and you experience them.
Scott: The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, appear when highly charged solar winds strike particles on the edge of space. Now, Alaska’s position on the planet makes it the best place in the U.S. to see the Northern Lights. But even there, with twenty hours of dark wintry skies, there is no guarantee you will see anything more than a starry night.
Dave: It makes for a long work shift. Sometimes you’re paid early, sometimes you’re paid late or not at all.
Scott: Green auroras are the most common. Red are the rarest, seen just six to ten times each decade.
Dave: It never gets old. Every show is like a fingerprint. You’re experiencing that moment and it’s over.
Scott: And then he waits until the next time nature’s night light returns.
Scott Evans, Channel One News.
Shelby: To check out more of Dave’s incredible images of the Northern Lights, just head to Channelone.com.