Sunday Night Aurora at Shenandoah National Park

We missed the fantastic aurora seen across the US on Friday night due to inclement weather, and again Saturday night due to even worse weather. We decided to drive over to Shenandoah National Park tonight as the forecast called for good weather with clear skies.

We arrived at Shenandoah National Park before midnight on Sunday, May 12th, entering via the Thornton Gap entrance. We drove to the north, making a brief pit stop at Elkwallow to visit the bathroom before continuing on to the Hogback Overlook. There aren’t very many north facing overlooks on Skyline Drive, the main road that runs through the park. We picked this one because it is large and far away from Front Royal, the town at the northern end of the park.

There were probably a dozen or so cars at Hogback Overlook when we arrived. We stopped on the southern part of the overlook. We oriented the camera to face north, more or less. It turns out that there are relatively bright lights in the valley below from one of the towns in the area. We couldn’t really tell exactly where we were pointed but it could have been Front Royal, which we were trying to avoid, or perhaps Strasburg or even Winchester.

A few narrow clouds quickly rolled in. Luckily, they did not block much of the sky.

The clouds were gone after around two hours, at about 2:30am. We did not see any signs of aurora activity.

We didn’t see any aurora activity until right before we were ready to leave, at around 3:50am. It was very faint, almost unnoticeable to the unassisted eye.

It turns out that, at around 3am, there were patches of green starting to dance across the sky. The camera sensor is much more sensitive and picked it up, though we hadn’t noticed on the camera’s tiny screen. The four frames above are the best ones we were able to capture.

Unfortunately, the aurora activity tonight was too far north to see much more than some moving patches of green.

We created a short time lapse showing the aurora activity that we photographed. Each frame is about one minute apart.

Unfortunately, not too impressive for our first ever sighting of an aurora. And not nearly as impressive as the aurora photographs from around the country from Friday night.

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