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Early September Aurora Lights Up The Sky

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Northern Lights Now – A long duration geomagnetic display gave aurora hunters a treat on the first three nights of September. Space weather conditions, under the influence of a large coronal hole on the Sun, were favorable for aurora borealis from late August 31st through September 3rd. KP reached G2 (moderate) storming levels for four 3-hour periods during that time. Strong storming is expected to continue for another 6-12 hours

Storm Origins

September’s solar storm was caused by strong solar wind buffeting Earth. The solar wind is the stream of charged particles constantly flow outward from the Sun into the Solar System. At Earth, that stream travels at about 350-400 km/s under normal conditions. This weekend it has been flowing at 600-750 km/s. The magnetic fields of those particles interact with, and push on, the magnetic fields of Earth. Solar wind becomes enhanced as the result of CMEs or when coronal holes are pointed towards Earth.

The current enhanced solar winds are from a very large coronal hole in the northern hemisphere of the sun. It is visible as the dark area from AIA211 images taken by the SDO satellite:

Large Coronal hole pointed towards Earth on August 31st
Large Coronal hole pointed towards Earth on August 31st

Long durations

Also visible in the above photograph is the longitudinal extent of the hole. As the Sun rotates, it takes about 14 days for a feature to move from the east lime (left side) to the west limb, the different portions of the hole are pointed towards earth. The longer portions of the hole are pointed towards Earth, the longer high solar wind speeds will impact earth and the longer the potential storm is. In today’s DSCOVR solar wind chart, notice that wind speeds have now been above 500km/s for over 48 hours, and above 650 km/s for over 6 hours:

Solar wind speeds have been strong for over two days
Solar wind speeds have been strong for over two days

The result of that long duration wind stream has been an epic solar storm. Over the last three days there have been four 3-hour periods where Boulder KP readings exceeded G2 storm levels, nine periods exceeded G1 levels and just 4 periods of KP less than three.

Three days of extrodinary aurora storming as measured by SWPC in Boulder Co.
Three days of extrodinary aurora storming as measured by SWPC in Boulder Co.

The Good Stuff

Below find several of our favorite tweets of pictures from this storm

A back of cam pic from the beginning of the storm in Finland:

The next night in Wisconsin:

Tasmania!

This Full sky display from over Lake Superior:

And of course, this author went out hunting in Colchester VT because we had clear skies:

More To Come

The official forecast shows this storm slowly decreasing in strength over the next 6-12 hours. There is still plenty of possibility for yet another night of display for Europe and the Eastern half of N. America. As long as wind speeds main enhanced, any disturbance traveling on the high speed wind stream could set off another substorm.

Happy Hunting

Twitter Time-Lapse from March 2016 Northern Lights

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Northern Lights Now – Aurora hunters from Europe to Central North America were treated to aurora as the result of a G3 Geomagnetic storm On March 6-7 2016. Images of aurora filled Twitter, as photographers who stay up late snapping pictures of the night sky shared their success stories. In addition to the photos, several tweeters shared their time lapse photography. NLN has compiled some of the best time lapse in this post. Enjoy!

Astronaut Tim Peake kicked off the evening’s Aurora time-lapse with this “Aurora photobomb” from the International Space Station:

Mac The Hat posted this tweet from the Beauly Firth near North Kessock in the highland of Scotland. In case you were wondering, a firth is a estuary or inlet from the sea:

In N. Ireland, Daragh McDonough (@DaraghDonegal) posted a realtime northern lights capture from a Canon6D from Donegal on the Northwest Coast:

In Maine, the aurora lasted long enough to put on a nice show at Sugarloaf mountain:

Sam Cornwell (@Samcornwell) Shared this wonderful Youtube video he created from images taken in Hawick on the Scottish Borders of the March 2016 storm:

For Hargi (@hargi_) the clouds added texture to the northern lights making a very interesting and lovely time lapse.

Thank you to all he intrepid aurora hunters who brave the cold and dark to share these images with the rest of the world!

Happy Hunting

Live Storm Updates – G2 Aurora Now

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Northern Lights Now – This post contains live updates to the storm predicted in Coronal Hole Prompts G1 Aurora Watch for Sat/Sun March 3rd and 4th.

March 7, 2016 03:45UTC (10:45 PM EST)

Tonight’s Aurora show has ended for most viewers. There may still be some good photos come in from areas that only need KP=4, but for the mostpart it’s time to good to bed for the sleep deprived intrepid aurora hunters. By all accounts it has been a terrific night. The official prediction was for a single 3-hour period of KP=5, but there were 12 hours with the KP in the G1 zone with a peak period of G3 activity:

Boulder KP readings show 12 hours of G1, G2, and G3 activity
Boulder KP readings show 12 hours of of G1, G2, and G3 activity

This evening Eastern North America joined in the action just as the storm was abating – hunters in Prince Edward Island, Maine and New Hampshire all reported success:

PEI from aurora hunter John Morris:

Maine from our friend Rob Wright:

New Hampshire from the Mount Washington Observatory atop the White Mountains:

March 7, 2016 00:30UTC (7:30 PM EST)

The storm has started to abated just a little. But it has been great. We haven’t seen any aurora posted by hunters in North America yet, but we expect at least some from Maine and PEI soon. Bz has been north over the last 20 minutes. If it stays that way, the show will be over in about 45 minutes. If it shifts back to the south, even parts of the midwest could have an opportunity for aurora tonight.

March 6, 2016 19:30UTC (5:30 PM EST)

This is an absolutely amazing storm! Bz continues to be south as much as 10nT, Bt has been between 10nT and 20nT for hours, and there are clear skies in much of the UK and Ireland. One indicator of the strength of this is storm is all the reports of Red hues to the aurora.

Check out these wonderful aurora tweets:

March 6, 2016 17:00UTC (3:00 PM EST)

This storm is continuing to get stronger. KP is predicted to be 6.67 in 45 minutes. Aurora reports are streaming in on Twitter from

Ireland:

Northumberland :

and Netherlands:

March 6, 2016 16:00UTC (2:00 PM EST)

As expected, the Wing KP model was under-estimating the strength of this storm. The Boulder Kp which is based on ground measurments over the last three hours was just updated to 5.67 indicating G2 storming. There is nothing in the data to suggest this won’t be a very good storm for Europe and possibly Iceland and the northeastern US once it gets dark. Here’s a snapshot of the current Ovation model output:

Ovation shows the extent and strength of Aurora continuing to increase
Ovation shows the extent and strength of Aurora continuing to increase

March 6, 2016 13:00UTC (11:00 PM EST)

Solar wind data at ACE is indicating that the high speed solar wind from the coronal hole is arriving. The Bz component of the magnetic field is oriented south and has been for over an hour and a half. Wing KP (which the graph to the right and in the post below) is based on is indicating a predicted KP of 4.00. This likely an underestimate of the actual KP. Once the Boulder ground-based KP readings come in, the wing KP model will respond with higher readings. This is looking like it could be a good storm!

Wing KP is showing expected KP of 4.0 soon
Wing KP is showing expected KP of 4.0 soon