Nightscapes - Robert Arn
Powered by SmugMug Log In

Light Show

This image appeared on the Optics Picture of the Day (OPOD) website with an explanation of the event provided my Les Cowley.

Special thanks to those on the NCAS, LAS, FRAC, and Astrolandscape list servs and Tonk, who have tried to identify the phenomena in this image. At this point the most likely explanation for the green lights are gravity waves in airglow, or oxygen atoms which had been excited by UV daytime light now returning to their ground state.

On top of being a rare phenomena there is also a really good story behind this image. I had went out to Keota that evening to start collecting data for a solstice image I had planned. Once I got to the "dark" site, I collected the data I needed and in one of my last shots, caught part of these green lines stretching out. Since digital film is cheap I went around the area and captured all the information you see in this image, then packed up and started to head to my next photo shoot location.

No more than .1 miles on this old dirt road which would lead me back to the interstate and my vehicle comes across mud - and lots of it. Now to set the story straight, it had not rained for days. The part of the road that I used to get to the dark site was a great dirt road; solid dirt, no sign of trouble. But alas, I get stuck in the mud.

After spending an hour stuck in the mud, trying to dig myself out (by hand) I finally give up. At this point by vehicle is coated in mud as am I. While this may have seen like a bad situation to being with, you need to couple it with the fact that my cell phone does not receive reception. Thankfully, I had OnStar and thankfully OnStar works even in places with no cell service.

As soon as I heard the voice of the people at OnStar I thought everything was good - I mean they knew I was stuck, they have my GPS location. They tell me they are sending a tow truck out so life should be good. Two hours later after not hearing anything from them or seeing a truck, I call them back. Apparently even with GPS coordinates they cannot find me, so they just gave up looking! After another conversation with them which involved me giving the directions "Go down CO 103. You will reach a T-intersection with CO 96 where the road will turn left. At that point turn right - hop the ditch - and drive for 1/2 mile down a dirt road that you can barely see which is covered on both sides by cactuses."

By now three hours had passed since I got stuck, but I see the tow truck. The lights on the truck were starting to get brighter and brighter as it moved towards me. Brighter, brighter, the same, the same. All of a sudden the truck stopped getting closer. It was stuck in the mud!

After an hour and a half of trying to access the situation, the tow truck operator had enough chain to pull me out from where the tow truck was stuck at. After I got out, I drove to the other side of the tow truck and used my vehicle as an anchor point for the tow truck to get unstuck.

Life was good. We were both unstuck and even though we were still on this dirt road, we were on the piece that the tow truck had to drive down to get to me in the first place. So I start driving down this road. I don't get more than .2 miles before once again I somehow get stuck in the mud. So the tow truck leapfrogs around me and pulls me out once again - only to get stuck in the mud himself (again). So I leap frog around his truck again. Use my vehicle as an anchor point again and continue down the road again.

Finally, it is seven in the morning when we make it back to the Country Road which leads to the interstate. Seven hours after I got stuck in the mud, I am finally free (though still covered in mud) and get to start the hour drive back home.

The definitely makes one of my most exciting astro-imaging adventures so far.

Location: South of Keota, CO
Date: 2011-06-20
Camera: Canon XSi (modified)
Lens: Sigma 20mm f/1.8
Mount: Astrotrac
Details: 16x30 seconds f/1.8 ISO 1600
Processing: Photoshop CS5, Topaz DeNoise 5