Aurora oh wow! Calgary pilot Matt Melnyk’s spectacular photos shot from flight deck of Dreamliner at 35,000 feet

Airline pilot Matt Melnyk had the best office view in the world Friday night.

Melnyk was piloting a Dreamliner from Calgary to London, England, Friday night, when he ran into an otherworldly show as the plane flew north.

He said he shot the photos from the flight deck at 35,000 feet, starting at the northeastern border of Alberta.

“It started around 10:00 p.m. and lasted pretty much three hours,” Melnyk wrote in an email to CTV during his London layover Saturday. “We eventually flew so far north and east that the Aurora was behind and south of us.”

The landscapes below, Melnyk said, are various tundra-type landscapes in northern Canada, north of the Hudson Bay.

Melnyk’s Instagram feed features numerous spectacular photos of Aurora Borealis that he shoots in southern Alberta, which raises a question: are the colours more vivid up north?

Melnyk shot his photos from the flight deck of a Dreamliner at 35,000 feet. (Photo: Matt Melnyk)

“Absolutely they are,” he said.  “You don’t need a strong KP index  (planetary K-index) or any kind of solar storm to see vivid colors when you are this far north around the 55 degree to 60 degree latitude.”

Melnyk said flying north overseas allows him to enjoy frequent Aurora Borealis sightings. (Photo: Matt Melnyk)

It’s Melnyk’s third trans-Atlantic trip on the Dreamliner and he said he’s run into Aurora Borealis every time – and this is one natural light show that is never the same twice.

“It is always different every flight,” he said.  “It all depends on how our atmosphere reacts with the charged particles from the sun. 

“Sometimes we see bright reds, sometimes purples, mostly green almost always, and on rare occasions we see pink and electric blue,” he added. “If you’re lucky, you get to see most of these colors in one night — if not all of them!”

Aurora Borealis north of Hudson Bay, March 22, 2024 (Photo: Matt Melnyk)

And for those of you hoping to do some night sky watching in the coming weeks, Melnyk has encouraging news.

“We are climbing our way towards solar maximum, which means major Aurora events will be more common,” he said.  “Therefore people in southern latitudes, such as Calgary, will have a greater chance of seeing them. 

“Also during the equinoxes, both spring and fall, the Aurora tends to be more active, just as it has been this month.  We are due for one more big show in March, as we just learned of an earth-directed solar flare that was just launched from the sun yesterday!  This has the potential to spark a G3 geomagnetic storm, which means the Aurora will spill far into the United States.”

Aurora Borealis over northern Alberta, March 22, 2024 (Photo: Matt Melnyk)

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