Timestorm Films – South Pole: Night in Antarctica

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An evening pause: For those, like myself, who have never seen the aurora.

Hat tip Steve Golson.

SOUTH POLE | NIGHT IN ANTARCTICA from Martin Heck | Timestorm Films on Vimeo.



  • m d mill


  • Joe

    Beautiful, that sky!

  • Edward

    Thank you for that imagery.

    Unlike Robert, I have seen the aurora borealis, back in the 1970s. My family was visiting relatives in Minnesota, and one night the parents woke up us kids to look at the aurora, which was visible farther south, that night, than usual. It was exciting to see, even through our sleepy eyes, but disappointingly we only saw green; if there was any red, it was too faint for us to make out. Just as clouds change almost too slowly to be perceptible, the aurora changed slowly.

    A few years later, my family visited NASA Goddard and attended a talk about photographing the aurora borealis from space. The images he presented were black and white and taken too far from the Earth for the beautiful, fine shapes to be seen.

    Years after that, I worked on the Atmospheric X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (AXIS), part of the Particle Environment Monitor (PEM) of the Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS) (launched in 1991, reentered in 2011). Once again, the images were taken from too far and the resolution far too coarse for the beautiful shapes to show. I also worked on part of the High‐Energy Particle Spectrometer (HEPS) and the Medium‐Energy Particle Spectrometer (MEPS) (also part of UARS’s PEM), whose job was to detect incoming electrons that created the auroras whose X-rays were imaged by AXIS. One objective was to compare the energy of the electrons that created the auroras to the energy of the X-rays they generated.

    The auroras have had a special place in my heart for most of my life.

  • Chris

    So a simple question for those astronomers and physicists out there:
    When we see the Aurora from the vantage point of the earth’s pole why does the aurora “span” the pole and not “terminate” or otherwise show symmetry about the magnetic pole.
    I could see it moving across the magnetic lines of the fields terminating the at the pole. But I would expect an indicaton of the pole in the pattern. I realize this is the geographic pole not the magnetic but I would expect a different shape in the aurora near the actual magnetic pole.

  • wayne

    –This (brief) visualization of the magnetic field lines, might help–
    (I’m sure there is someone more equipped to answer)

    Aurora Borealis

  • Max

    I enjoyed that very much, beautiful!

    First time I watched it I was amazed with how aesthetically pleasing and relaxing, the music a perfect complement.
    The next time I watched it for memorable landmarks and familiar things, a scientific observation.
    The opening scene I spotted Orion on the horizon it’s belt unmistakable. So the bright star must be the “Sirius” the Dog Star constellation. sure enough, you can see it upside down in many scenes. This indicates it is not northern summer when Sirius is behind the sun. (The dog days of summer)
    In the Milky Way, on the horizon, you can see the tale of constellation Scorpius?
    When showing a green ribbon of energy, with the camera facing upward, you can clearly see the southern cross.
    It is baffling how the brightest part of our galaxy is nearly obscured with dark clouds so thick that most of our instruments cannot penetrate.
    A mystery, what is “behind the black”.

    You would think that the southern pole would be an ideal location for a massive telescope, at near 10,000 feet, with near six months of total darkness…
    This video illustrates well how much natural light pollution there is, there’s also the stratospheric clouds that form at the beginning of winter that obscure much. Gases from the sun freezing in the stratosphere. The primary cause of the 3 ppm ozone hole when the sun returns in the Antarctica spring in September and part of November. The lighter than air gases of methane and ammonia, captured from the solar wind, heat up and oxidize creating water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen. After that, o-zone levels return to normal about 8 to 10 ppm. The water will sublimate to the cold surface adding about a foot of ice on average. (This is the explanation for the growing thickness of the southern ice cap In a place that almost never has measurable precipitation)
    It is obvious that all the buildings are on stilts so they can raise them up every few years to stay above the thickening ice cap. The original building established in the 50s is 60 feet under the ice now. (with three months of continuous sunlight, you would think that 24 hour sun would melt it all away…)
    The temperature averages 40 below zero in summer to 70 below zero in the winter. From maximum solar influence to minimum solar influence. Much different than the north pole, the difference being that the south pole is on top of a mountain of ice near 10,000 feet.
    On Google maps, the elevation shows at sea level. Confusion. Apparently it is true that satellites cannot see the interior of Antarctica because they do not fly over the pole. A blind spot. I do not know if the O-Zone measuring satellite has the same problem. If it does, they been miss representing the truth to us for years.
    When my sisters and I drove home from Alaska, I took the night shift. In northern Canada, the fall of 81 there was a large solar event that filled my nights with blue and green aurora that would light up the road. I’ll never forget it. Although the sky was clear, the burning clouds of gas above my head had created so much water, as a mist, it was necessary to use my wipers. It was such a strange thing to watch the Aurora, the stars, and to get soaking wet at the same time.
    That’s when I realized why the ocean levels rise at all, we live in a gravity well. Our planet pulling in everything that comes our way. Including enough gas from the solar wind to see the flame burning across the entire sky from 50 miles away. Can you just imagine the mass/energy that can make that possible? I have a hard time seeing a methane flame on my stove…

    My favorite shot is of the radar emitter? With the overlay of the captured meteor streaks to simulate a meteor shower. Very pleasing.
    Thank you Bob for a visually and intellectually stimulating post.

  • Edward

    I think wayne’s linked video is a good explanation. The asymmetry of auroras is due to the directional nature of the incoming particles and the asymmetric nature of Earth’s magnetic field. Due to the way charged particles interact with magnetic fields, the particles have a tendency to spiral around the magnetic field lines (the path where the magnetic field is equal in strength all along the path), and this tends to create the curtain-like visible effect, again, not a symmetric phenomenon.

    The video also shows the Earth’s magnetic field as a bit compressed on the sun side and elongated on the night side. This is because of the effects of the solar wind, which is also electrically charged, but not as strong as the solar storm (ion storm).

    The fun that we can have in learning about space and the environment of the solar system reminds me of a recent xkcd online cartoon: https://xkcd.com/2124/

    Max wrote: “It is obvious that all the buildings are on stilts so they can raise them up every few years to stay above the thickening ice cap.

    The stilts also prevent the windswept ice and snow from building up on the sides of the buildings. They pass underneath, and the buildings do not become covered as snowdrifts. The buildup of ice on the cap takes longer than to develop such a snowdrift, making that more of a secondary purpose for the stilts.

  • F16 Guy

    I have flown many airline flights into and out of both Anchorage and Fairbanks. I always checked the “aurora forecast” and was often amazed at the sights the aurora gave. Green is the most common color with red being more rare. Always a delight to see, and quite honestly, one of the best seats in the house is a 757 cockpit window!

  • Alex Andrite

    “The Heavens Proclaim ….”

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