Rosaly Lopes is sending us reports from The Planetary Society's member trip to view the Aurora Borealis in Alaska from March 19-25. Lopes is Lead Scientist for Geophysics and Planetary Geosciences at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an investigation scientist on the Cassini Titan RADAR mapper team. Her main research interests concern volcanoes in the solar system, especially on Earth and Io.
It's my first time to Alaska and what a welcome: the weather is great, the landscape spectacular, and our group really friendly and interesting. We have scientists, engineers, doctors, artists. There is a lady with two Ph.D.'s and several more honorary ones. Probably a world record. There are people from Spain, Mexico, Israel, and many states of the U.S. Our expedition leader, Bob Nansen, says we have a very good chance of seeing the aurora. Dennis Mammana promises he will help us get great photos. I hope we will be lucky.
We stay in Anchorage tonight (March 19), then visit Seaward tomorrow, and depart for Fairbanks by train on Saturday. It is rare to see the aurora from Anchorage: too many city lights.
I'm also looking forward to seeing the wildlife and we will certainly see a lot tomorrow. They must have lots of moose here, considering the jokes ("once in a blue moose," "moosellaneous," etc). I do hope the gorgeous weather holds!
My only disappointment is that Redoubt volcano seems to have calmed down today. I'm hoping for an eruption, even though that would disrupt our travel. But I'm a volcanologist, so my wishes are often different from most people's.