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Stunning New Video Features Aurora Borealis At Denali National Park


"Trees Aflame," one of the images of the aurora by Denali seasonal interpreter Jacob Frank. Photo by Jacob Frank, Denali National Park.

The aurora borealis (Northern Lights) have long been a source of fascination for people fortunate to live in—or visit—locations where they are visible. Now, thanks to the photographic and musical talents of two volunteers, all of us can enjoy a beautiful time-lapse video of the aurora over Denali National Park.

The video was created by Denali seasonal interpreter Jacob Frank, who took more than 8,000 still images of the aurora between last January and March. Simply capturing the images in the first place was a formidable task. Frank volunteered nearly 60 hours shooting still photos in the subzero temperatures common to the Alaskan winters. Some nights were so cold (- 42 degrees F) that his camera only worked for about fifteen minutes.

Frank then spent additional hours combining the thousands of still images in sequence into the video, which "animated the lights back to life." The result is a stunning piece of work which features not only the aurora, but dramatic views of the night sky. The apparent motion of the stars is readily visible, and several "shooting stars" can be seen streaking across the sky at times as the video unfolds.

The images are enhanced by an original soundtrack by composer Peter Van Zandt Lane, who was commissioned, as a volunteer, to score the video. It took Lane ten days to compose and record “Coronal Mass Ejection,” a term used to describe a burst of solar wind that ultimately creates the Northern Lights. Lane hopes to show the video and perform the piece live in concert in the near future. You can download the original composition, "Coronal Mass Ejection," at this link, or visit his website.

You can view the five-minute-long video on the Denali National Park website or on the park's Facebook page. The park also plans to show it to winter visitors at the Murie Science and Learning Center.

In addition to showcasing the video, the park's aurora webpage includes information about the science behind the aurora borealis, updates on current aurora activity and an aurora forecast. Don't fail to scroll down to the bottom of that page for another bonus—an Aurora Borealis Photo Gallery—that includes some stunning still photos.

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