Air Force Pilot Captures Northern Lights Up Close And Personal

Mar 30, 2018 by Lisa Scarpa

The northern lights are a spectacle we all dream of witnessing at least once in our lifetime. They are not the easiest to catch but one lucky person got to be a first-hand spectator in the best place possible. Above the clouds! 

Air Force Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont, was flying a U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance plane 70,000 feet above land going about 500 mph and had his full attention on flying! Also known as the “Dragon Lady,” the U-2 is a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft that was introduced in the 1950s. Previously used by the CIA to gather intelligence during the Cold War, it is now operated by the Air Force.

As he flew over Canada, he began to notice a green light swirling around the aircraft and reflecting into his cockpit. He realized it was the dancing display of colors known as the northern lights, which are created when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with atmospheric gases to create a dramatic collection of greens and pinks. Being that he is an amateur photographer, he always carries his Nikon 750D and has captured beautiful photographs from such great heights before but this time was different. 

He knew and had seen many photos of Aurora Borealis before but this was not the same experience. However, there's a fair amount of skill involved in taking photographs in a vibrating plane traveling at 500 mph while wearing a spacesuit that restricts motion and visibility. Franquemont admits that almost every photograph he has taken always comes out amazing because of the unique perspective the U-2 gives but the more photographs he has the chance to capture, the more his interest in photography increases.

All pictures by Ross Franquemont

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