When nature meets technology: Phone cameras bring the northern lights to life during a solar storm


The dazzling images of the Northern Lights – visible as far south as Arizona – are made possible, in part, by the dark mode photography features on our cell phones.

The Aurora Borealis, a phenomenon usually seen over the northernmost parts of the world, is lighting up the skies due to a massive G5 category solar storm that is expected to continue through Sunday.

While sky watchers are reporting naked-eye visibility across much of the US, those struggling to see the natural glow may have a powerful tool in their pocket. Michael Betwi, head of operations for NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, said people can take photos of the event for a clearer view.

“You might not be able to see it with your naked eye, but if you have a clear night and not a lot of clouds, and you hold your phone up to the sky, you might actually get a photo or two,” Betwi said. Can meet.” Friday briefing.

According to Brent Gordon, head of the Space Weather Services Branch for SWPC, the technology in our phone cameras — the long-exposure feature known as dark mode or night mode on many devices — will enable amateur photographers to see the aurora.

“Things the human eye can't see, your phone can see,” Gordon said at the briefing. “It will be interesting to see how far south we get images of the aurora.”

The colorful displays caused by disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field from solar particles were intensified by the storm, causing a spate of “coronal mass ejections” and visibility extending as far south as Tucson, Arizona.

If your phone has a dark mode photography feature, you can capture the aurora on Saturday and Sunday nights before the solar storm ends. Per Hello Aurora, a northern lights tracking service, using a tri-pod and turning on a feature like night mode or a manual long exposure time, along with choosing a dark environment free of light pollution, creates optimal conditions for photos. Is.

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