Pictures from the Northern Lights visible in Malletts Bay on September 12th, 2014

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Updated 9/14/2014: The photo and time lapse below were featured on last night’s NBC Nightly News! The Northern Lights footage starts at the 12m46s mark.

The Northern Lights were visible from Northern Vermont shortly after 8:30 PM EST. I grabbed my camera gear and ran down to the beach on Lake Champlain to snag this shot:

MallettsBayNorthernLights_2014-09-12
The above shot was taken with my Fujifilm X-T1 and Rokinon 12mm lens. The exposure was 10 seconds long at f/2.0 with ISO 1600.

Once I took a few shots, I decided it would be worth running a time lapse. You can see the full timelapse below:

Note: the apparition in the frame may or may not be Champ. Or it could possibly be my neighbor’s Golden Retriever.

Follow us on Twitter at @northlightalert to be alerted before the next Northern Lights event occurs!

Massive X1.66 Flare Prompts G3 Geomagnetic Watch from SWPC

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Wednesday afternoon Active Solar Region 2158 (Beta-Delta-Gamma) produced the first X-Class flare since June 10. The solar region was near the center-line of the Sun and produced a large fast-moving CME that is Earth-directed. As a result, SWPC has issued a G3 (Strong, KP = 7) geomagnetic watch. This, with the long duration flare from earlier this week is a one-two punch providing aurora hunters terrific opportunities to see northern lights between 9/12 and 9/14. Here’s the current solar info graphic from SWPC (Click to see larger image):

SWPC shows three days of geomagnetic watches for 9/12-9/14
SWPC shows three days of geomagnetic watches for 9/12-9/14

Complicated, but Active, Forecast
You can see a G2 (moderate, KP=6) watch posted for 9/12 UTC that starts around 7:30PM EST on 9/11 as the first green bar at the bottom. This is from the long duration M4.57 flare and CME on Monday. The predicted peak of that activity should be between 3:00am – 6:00am EST on Friday morning. As always, there is a +/- of about 6 hours of the arrival of CMEs, so watch the KP values.

On 9/13 there is a G1 watch for the due to potential activity at the beginning of the UTC day as there may be remnant activity from the 9/8 CME. The G3 (Strong, KP=7) watch posted for 9/13 is from the CME from Wednesday’s X-Class flare. That is expected to peak around mid-day UTC – which would be 8:00am EST.

SPWC is predicting the possibility of remnant activity from the X-Class flare CME on 9/14 with their G1 watch. There may be active aurora conditions at the beginning of the 9/14 UTC day – on Saturday evening 9/13 EST.

It should be an exciting three days for Aurora hunters. As always, it is uncertain when exactly the solarstorms will arrive, so monitor the KP closely. You can see live real-time KP values at http://northernlightsnow.com/current-kp-realtime/ you can find more even more detailed space weather data at www.spaceweatherlive.com A good way to predict the KP is to watch the Bz component. When it is lower than -5Bt for an extended period of time, higher KP are likely.

If you are going to go out aurora hunting remember the tips in our last minute aurora viewing preparation guid

Happy Hunting!

M4.57 Flare to Produce Solar Storm and Aurora 9/12/2014

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Monday evening, Active Solar region 2158 (Beta-Delta-Gamma) produced a very long duration M4.57 Solar flare. A large, partially Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME) was associated. As a result, high latitude Aurora hunters should be on alert Thursday and Friday. The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a geomagnetic storm watch for possible G2 (KP = 6) conditions on 9/12/2014 and a G1 (KP=5) watch for 9/13/2014.

Region 2158 had been relatively quiet since it rotated into view late last week. The region grew in magnetic complexity from Beta to Beta-Delta to Beta-Delta-Gamma over the week. On Sunday, it was Beta-Delta-Gamma, but did not produce any notable flares. Monday it produced a C-level flare about 4 hours before launching the longest duration M or X class flare of the year.

The flare was 140 minutes (2:20) in duration and x-ray measurements remained above M-Class for 2 hours 45 minutes. Generally the longer a flare continues the more likely it is to release a CME and the larger and more complex that CME will be. The next longest M or X class flare we have seen in 2014 was the February 4 M1.56 CME which lasted abuot 90 minutes. Most M-Class flares have a duration around 30 minutes.

The position of region 2158 at the time of the flare was good for potential Aurora activity but not ideal. In the image below, region 2158 is the large disturbed area in the mid-upper left.

AIA 1600 image of the Sun during the M4.56 Flare on 9/8/2014
AIA 1600 image of the Sun during the M4.56 Flare on 9/8/2014

Regions rotate from left to right across or view of the Sun as Earth orbits and the Sun rotates. It takes about 14 days for a region to cross the earth-facing portion of the Sun. The closer a flare occurs to the center point, the more likely the resulting CME is to have an Earth-directed component.

The CME that is approaching Earth is due is due to arrive in the first part of 9/12 UTC. This means somewhere between midnight and 6:00am EST +/- six hours. Aurora hunting weather looks good for most of the country Thursday night into Friday morning. Here’s a map of the cloudcover forecast during the expected peak of aurora Activity.

Skys look clear for the 9/12 solarstorm
Skys look clear for the 9/12 solarstorm

As always, monitor the KP at http://northernlightsnow.com/current-kp-realtime/