The aurora borealis is a rare sight, so rare that the astronomy community refers to it as 'The Holy Grail of Skywatching.' Stateside, your best bet at viewing the elusive Northern Lights is above Alaska's glaciers and alpine forests. But the solar light show occasionally appears in the skies above the Equality State.

Why Are Aurora Borealis Appearances Over Wyoming So Rare?

It takes a massive solar flare to send the shimmering lights this far south. Most displays of the phenomena take place in the aural ovals, twin halos of constant aural glow that shift around the Earth's magnetic poles. According to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the ovals of 'each oval consists of a band of hard-to-see auroral glow within which are embedded visible auroral arcs, bands and other shapes.' The aurora is a 'permanent feature' on Earth, but it takes a solar wind to make it visible to the naked eye. NASA explains that the ovals can expand like a rubberband, sometimes reaching as far south as Huntsville, Alabama, or Kyoto, Japan.

Photographer Finds the Astronomical 'Holy Grail' Above Laramie, Wyoming

On September 18, 2023, Jonathan Dragojevic was on a mission to capture the Northern Lights over Laramie. Dragojevic, a photographer by trade, takes photos for clients by day, with work spanning events to light painting photography. By night, he trades in his business-owner hat for that of an astronomy enthusiast, seeking out shots of starry skies and astronomical wonders like the aurora.

Dragojevic and his wife set out on a crisp September night seeking out the aurora...and achieved that mission on a quiet stretch of road Northwest of Laramie on Welsh Lane. There, he and his wife experienced something indescribable, "The experience had my wife and [me] teary-eyed at how marvelous it was." said Dragojevic.

The Northern Lights with Permission from Jonathan Dragojevic, Image Sourcery Photography
The Northern Lights shimmer over the Laramie Valley on September 18, 2023.
Credit: With Permission from Jonathan Dragojevic, Image Sourcery Photography
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The auroral display over Laramie resulted from an enormous coronal mass ejection (C.M.E.) that erupted from the sun on September 16, 2023. The eruption, reports Space.com, triggered a geomagnetic storm that ignited auroras visible to the naked eye as far south as Colorado!

Dragojevic captured the opportunity of a lifetime on his Nikon D5600 with a 24-70 2.8g lens. It was, says Dragojevic, the first time he witnessed the aurora so vividly. Cloud coverage has frequently foiled his previous attempts at catching the aurora.

Photo of the Milky Way using Light Painting Photography. With Permission from Jonathan Dragojevic, Image Sourcery Photography
Photo of the Milky Way using Light Painting Photography.
With Permission from Jonathan Dragojevic, Image Sourcery Photography
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The images captured by Dragojevic display a second phenomenon in addition to the traditional aurora borealis. It's called 'S.T.E.V.E.,' or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement (STEVE), described by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as 'a phenomenon similar to their more well-known cousins Aurora Borealis and Australis.' S.T.E.V.E. phenomena are similar to the aurora, but research from the University of Calgary indicates that it's not an aurora because it doesn't 'follow the same rules as the solar particles that create the aurora.' Thus, it is considered a relation to the aurora borealis and is commonly referred to as a 'skyglow.'

The Milky Way Above Laramie. Photo of the Milky Way using Light Painting Photography. With Permission from Jonathan Dragojevic, Image Sourcery Photography
The Milky Way Above Laramie.
Photo of the Milky Way using Light Painting Photography.
With Permission from Jonathan Dragojevic, Image Sourcery Photography
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You can learn more about Dragojevic's photography at Image Sourcery Photography by clicking here.

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