Northern lights dazzle over Homer

Sound sleepers might miss early morning displays of the northern lights, but if you have a dog that wakes you up at night or find yourself awake, with luck you might just catch one of the glories of the north. Look anytime the sky is dark.

Clear skies the past week have provided some spectacular aurora viewing. About 2:30 a.m. Tuesday I happened to be up and looked north for the chance of northern lights. That’s the first trick of catching the aurora: look north toward the horizon. If you see a greenish glow, keep watching. The northern lights might flare up into dynamic bands of light. Here are some tips for photographing the aurora with a digital camera:

• Use a tripod.

• Set the focus on manual. Focus on infinity and then dial back a hair. If there’s a streelight you can focus on, use that.

• Use the “bulb” shutter speed and hold the shutter open for from 3 to 10 seconds. Experiment.

• At long exposures, the ISO doesn’t have to be high, about 1600.

According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, the aurora forecast is poor for Homer through Oct. 15, but strong on Oct. 16 and 17. For updates, visit

Michael Armstrong can be reached at