Northern lights dazzling display over New Brunswick captured on camera

Dave Robins says he braved -20 C temperatures to capture stunning photos of the northern lights Sunday night on the Mactaquac headpond. (Dave Robins/Twitter - image credit)
Dave Robins says he braved -20 C temperatures to capture stunning photos of the northern lights Sunday night on the Mactaquac headpond. (Dave Robins/Twitter - image credit)

The sky over New Brunswick dazzled photographers on Sunday night as the northern lights shimmered and danced.

David Robins set up his camera for a long exposure on a tripod at the Mactaquac headpond after getting advance notice of the light show on the Aurora Forecast website.

"At first, I thought the moonlight was going to overpower the display," Robins told CBC News via a social media messaging app. "But I noticed the dim aurora on the horizon move south so I decided to stay."

Robins is used to keeping his eye on the sky as a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. On Sunday night, his instincts served him well. Close to midnight he got the shots he was hoping for.

"It then sort of exploded into a great display for about five minutes around 11:30," he said, adding that the display was worth the – 20 C temperature "and my feet freezing."

Brad Perry/Twitter
Brad Perry/Twitter

Photographer Brad Perry was also able to capture some stunning shots. Like Robins, he relies on forecasting websites and apps to let him know when to head out.

His camera captured photos of the northern lights from his home in Durham Bridge, around 20 kilometers north of Fredericton.

"The most exciting moment is when you take that first exposure," said Perry. "You're looking out there on the horizon and you can see maybe a bit of a glow or something. But when you see that first image back it's like 'wow!'"

Robins and Perry were just two of a number of photographers who were able to capture shots of the northern lights over the weekend. And there may be more opportunities in the days ahead.

Chris Curwin, an amateur astronomer with the Saint John Astronomy Club and a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, said there may be another show Monday night.

David Robins/Twitter
David Robins/Twitter

Curwin says while it's uncommon to see vivid northern lights this far south, New Brunswickers should keep their gaze heavenward for the next little while.

"The sun goes through an 11-year cycle and we're coming up to our maximum part of the cycle in 2025," said Curwin. "And that means an increased amount of solar activity or sun spots.

"Usually sunspots result in solar flares. Solar flares result in large amounts of plasma from the sun," said Curwin.

"If we happen to happen to be in the path of that material ... our atmosphere gets excited by the charged particles that come in and excites oxygen atoms and nitrogen, and this is what causes our northern lights."

'X-class solar flare'

He says the sun was very active about three days prior to Sunday night, and the lights we are seeing now are the result of that.

"We had what's called an X-class solar flare, which is one of the strongest solar flares, released the other day," said Curwin. "It released this large cloud of plasma and it impacted our atmosphere and that's what happened over the weekend."

Curwin says it's difficult to predict exactly how vivid the northern lights will be each night as forecasts are only accurate a few hours ahead of time.

For the best experience he said it's important to go to an area away from city lights, and keep your gaze northward.