Category Archives: Solar Storm Recap

G2 Aurora to Start September 2016

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Northern Lights Now – A widespread aurora display delighted viewers across northern Europe and North America on September 1st and 2nd. Kp values, a global measure of aurora activity, reached G2 storm levels. Northern lights were visible in Denmark, Maine, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and across Canada.

Here are some highlights from Twitter, check back tomorrow for a more detailed storm recap:

Over Lake Superior

In New Hampshire:

In Denmark:

And By Northern Lights Now!

Happy Hunting!

Strong G3 Aurora Lights The Sky May 6-8 2016

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Northern Lights Now – Geomagnetic storming resulting from a coronal hole high speed stream pushed the alert level to G3 (KP=7) this Mother’s Day weekend treating aurora hunters around the world to a beautiful display. The active period produced one period of G1 storming on May 6, then a much longer and stronger period lasting 21 hours started early on May 8 GMT. Take a look at the 3-hour measured KP graph from the SQPC in Boulder:

Geomagnetic activity as measured by the SWPC in Boulder during the May 6-8 storm
Geomagnetic activity as measured by the SWPC in Boulder during the May 6-8 storm

Brian Drourr, a Vermont photographer and friend of NLN, was taking this storm in from the Algonquin Radio Observatory in Ontario, Canada, when he captured one of the most iconic images of the active period. That photo, with the ARO in the foreground and stunning green and purple northern lights in the background, is the feature image for this post, and we thank Brian for allowing us to share it with you. You can find more information about Brian and his photos on his Facebook page

Aurora behind the ARO in Oontario Canada by Brian Druorr on May 7, 2016
Aurora behind the ARO in Oontario Canada by Brian Druorr on May 7, 2016

The Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) is a satellite that is capable of capturing the Aurora as it dances from space. This image shows the Mother’s day Northern Lights dancing over Central Canada and the upper midwest. If you look closely (click on the image to zoom) you will be able to see the Fort Macmurry fires in Alberta along the Saskatchewan boarder:

Mother's Day Aurora Visible on VIIRS Satellite imagery

Here are some more great photos that came in from Twitter over the last couple days:

From Scott Rock over Lake Heron:

Some aurora with star trails from Laura Duchesne

A few Beams from North Umberland by Own Humphreys:

And Finally A time Lapse from Dave Patrick:

Happy hunting!

One Year Anniversary of St. Paddy’s Day Aurora 2016

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Northern Lights Now – St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, falls on a Thursday this year providing the perfect Throwback Thursday to last year, when the strongest Aurora storm of the current solar cycle arrived at Earth. Aurora hunters, including Dan Russell and this author, the Burlington VT based founders of NLN, were treated to hours on end of wondrous dancing lights. Dan and I captured these purple pillars with a camera on a tripod setup on the frozen ice of Lake Champlain:

Purple Aurora Pillars
Aurora glow and purple pillars visible in NLN’s photograph from St. Patrick’s Day Aurora Storm 2015

The storm that produced this aurora was only predicted to be 12-18 hours of G1 storming prompted by a filament eruption followed by a long duration C9 solar flare. Both events launched CMEs towards Earth, and as they arrived it became clear they were oriented just right for a long duration and very strong show. The plasma cloud from the filament and the CME from the flare arrived almost in unison. This sent the Bz strongly south by as much as 23nT. Bz remained south for over 24 hours, and the solar wind speeds increased to over 600km/s. By the time the storm subsided, there were two full days of G1+ activity including periods of G4:

Two full days of G1 storming reflected in the KP 3-hour chart from Boulder
Two full days of G1 storming reflected in the KP 3-hour chart from Boulder

This was not an easy storm to photograph in Vermont. The forecast for the evening did not look promising from the start. It was supposed to be cloudy all day and through the night on March 17 and it was cold! It was 24 degrees, and the wind was howling at 20 with gusts to 35mph (no exaggeration!) The northern lights activity was predicted to die down as the sun set over Lake Champlain, so at best there might only be a short window. As the afternoon waned, two factors came together nicely – first the storm was clearly stronger than expected, second there were hints in the very short term forecast that there could be a window where the clouds broke apart between sunset and about 9:30.

Cloudcover for St Paddy's day storm 2015 shows hints of clear skies for  Lake Champlain
Cloudcover for St Paddy’s day storm 2015 shows hints of clear skies for Lake Champlain

The batteries were charged, so we set up the cameras. This was a particularly cold March in Northern New England after a particularly cold winter. Lake Champlain and Mallott’s bay still had a thick layer of ice. We set the camera up pointed North and watched as a break in the clouds moved from West to East. When the sky cleared aurora were visible to the naked eye and we captured the image at the top of this post. There was a 45 minute window before the clouds rolled back in. Every Aurora hunter knows that feeling when the night is over because the clouds roll in. Dan and I went inside to warm up and to start processing images. While we sat inside, a squall came through dumping over an inch of snow.

At midnight, just as it was time to turn in, we looked out the window and it was crystal clear and there was red aurora in the sky to the North visible to the naked eye. We set the cameras up and let the intervalometer snap 5 second exposures on our Fujifilm X-T1 and Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 cameras. Did I mention it was cold? Now that it had snowed, the north wind was creating a “ground blizzard” as it picked up the freshly fallen snow and blew it across the lake at 20 mph. Here’s what Dan and I looked like, huddled behind a raised block of ice acting as a wind barrier, as we waited for the second round of photos at 1:00am.

Charles and Dan Shelter from the wind while time lapse camera snaps photos
Charles and Dan Shelter from the wind while time lapse camera snaps photos

It was worth it! At the end we had this time lapse that shows both the 8:30-9:30pm and 12:30-1:30am periods where the sky was clear. You can see the ice on the lake, and watch the clouds roll in during the first section, then in the second see one of the most amazing displays of Red, Green and Purple we’ve been lucky enough to experience.

Happy Hunting!