Surveying The Northern Lights

Don Hampton keeps his gaze fixed on Alaska’s night sky, closely watching colorful streaks of light dance above. As an aurora researcher at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Hampton has monitored this mesmerizing phenomenon for nearly two decades.

“I worry that I know enough about aurora that I sort of lose the magic of it, but when you know the scope of what you’re looking at it’s quite interesting,” he says. “It never gets boring watching the aurora. It’s just a pure joy to watch.”

Hampton captures thousands of images a night using a myriad of imaging tools that help him quantify the energy pouring down into earth’s ionosphere from particles in the solar wind. By examining the aurora’s varying colors as well as radar imaging of aurora’s effects, Hampton ultimately wants to help identify potential threats of high energy solar particles on satellites and our electrical infrastructure.

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Produced by Luke Groskin

Filmed by Christian Baker

Aurora Timelapses by Jason Ahrns

Music by Audio Network

Additional Stock Footage Provided by Don Hampton, Pond5, Lee Petersen (C.C. 2.0), Bernt Olsen (C.C. 2.0), NASA NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center’s Conceptual Image Lab, NASA Johnson Space Center and the ISS Space Crew Observation Facility NASA Earth Science Remote Sensing Facility, NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, Steve Sellwood (C.C 2.0), Matthew Stewart (C.C 2.0)

Meet the Producers and Host

About Luke Groskin

Luke Groskin is Science Friday’s video producer. He’s on a mission to make you love spiders and other odd creatures.

About Christian Baker

Christian Baker is an independent filmmaker, producer and director of photography.

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