Question about light
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    Question about light

    I've been wondering this for a while and haven't found any good answers to this question: Are northern lights strong enough (at night) to be a light source? And if yes, will the light be colored? Will a full moon overpower them? I sadly don't live anywhere close to where they occur anymore, and have only seen them once (so far).

    The reason I'm asking is, of course, that I want to paint a scenery with northern lights at night, probably a snowy landscape.

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    No, I'd say they aren't (unless they're literally filling the whole sky, maybe). Much like lightning, northern lights don't emit light that actually reaches the ground that much (though of course in lightning there's light but it's mostly in the clouds and too high, where as I'm not sure if actual light is even related to northern lights), which is something you can see from about any photo. Though the things you see in photos are not necessarily the same as northern lights in real life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_...nomy%29#Images
    I've seen ice, water and snow reflect the colour of it though.

    Like there's this video:

    And it shows the norther lights to light up the mountains, but I'm not sure how much that is because of the heavy duty special camera used.

    Last edited by TinyBird; June 12th, 2012 at 11:19 AM.
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    Wow, thank you very much! That certainly makes sense. And that video is really nice. I didn't want to rely too much on photos, since they don't necessarily show what it's really like. *coughphotoshopcough* Thanks again!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    Much like lightning, northern lights don't emit light that actually reaches the ground that much
    Excuse me?


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    Sure they're a light source. Hard to say if a full moon would overpower them...that would depend on too many variables...sometimes yes, sometimes no I'm sure.

    I might suggest watching "Brother Bear" which features quite a bit of Northern Light effects...though of course in a very fantastic, animated fashion. For realism you might find out more info from the astronomical, or atmospheric studies community.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Excuse me?
    I mean in the sense that when the lighting strikes in the clouds it tends to light up the sky, but the effect that can be seen is that the things in the grounds buildings etc tend to be in silhouette, like this:
    Name:  600.png
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    and one lighting hitting the ground won't light the whole area up like a sun but the general vicinity of it (though again this is what the camera sees and the flash of lighting is so brief that if the lightning's light lights the ground properly it might be lost to human eyes, at least it was to mine when I video'd that pic)

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    ...last I checked, if I'm in a dark room and there's a thunderstorm outside, the lightning flashes do light up the room... If buildings look like silhouettes in the video, that's probably because they're in front of the lightning, no? Just like things will look like silhouettes if you photograph them with the sun right behind them...

    Don't know about northern lights, the times I've seen them there were a lot of other light sources as well (stars, early dawn light) so it was hard to say how much light they cast on the scene compared to everything else. Didn't seem to be a significant amount, from the ones I've seen, but I haven't seen that many. They do reflect beautifully in lakes, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    I mean in the sense that when the lighting strikes in the clouds it tends to light up the sky, but the effect that can be seen is that the things in the grounds buildings etc tend to be in silhouette, like this:
    Name:  600.png
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    and one lighting hitting the ground won't light the whole area up like a sun but the general vicinity of it (though again this is what the camera sees and the flash of lighting is so brief that if the lightning's light lights the ground properly it might be lost to human eyes, at least it was to mine when I video'd that pic)
    It very much depends on the direction of the lightning with respect to the spectator. In your picture, the lightning lights the scenery where we cannot see it, so we see it as a silhouette, while somebody on the other side of the scenery might experience it as moment of daylight...

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    Northern lights are not as bright as a full moon. The light will be coloured, but I think you're only likely to notice if the aurora is really intense, it's the only light source and it's reflecting off snow.

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    The full moon is far brighter than you think. If you live in an urban or semi-urban area you don't realize it because your eyes adjust to the large amount of ambient light from streetlights, buildings, etc, but outside under a full moon in the country it can be bright enough to read comfortably.


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    I can agree to that. It's like saying you've seen stars living in the city.
    You reaaaaally haven't seen stars until you live in the country at some point.
    Amazing how much the environment changes.

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    Stars In the country.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    I mean in the sense that when the lighting strikes in the clouds it tends to light up the sky, but the effect that can be seen is that the things in the grounds buildings etc tend to be in silhouette, like this:
    Name:  600.png
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    That's just showing the limitation of cameras; if the camera's exposure is adjusted to best capture the lightning-lit sky, the ground is going to be super dark. However, if the exposure was set to capture the landscape, you'd notice a serious increase in light when the lightning strikes.

    It also depends heavily on how distant the lightning is, and what angle it is coming from.


    According to this, a weak aurora will be about as bright as the milky way, while the strongest recorded were as bright as a full moon: http://www.ips.gov.au/Category/Educa...ora/Aurora.pdf

    Last edited by Meloncov; June 12th, 2012 at 11:56 PM.
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    Field trip.

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    Wow, didn't expect so many answers. Thank you everyone, especially those sharing their experiences! That last link is very helpful, scientific answers are always great.

    Of course a field trip would be a good idea, the thing is that it's kind of impossible for me to go that far north right now. Also, snow means winter, and right now it's summer

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    a little deviation from the subject, but thank you to all for this topic, given me some ideas for using auroras as light-sources. granted maybe not as intense or strong light-source realistically, but hey, fantasy art has ways xD

    anyway! a post to thank all, as opposed to thanking all individually

    time to draw some goodies


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    They don't emit any note worthy light, I'm pretty sure.

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