Tag Archives: long duration

Aurora May 16 through May 20 Live Blog

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Northern Lights Now – There is an extended period of active aurora predicted for the third week of May 2016. NLN is going into live-blog mode to provide updates as the storm unfolds. Please check this page often.

Some helpful links to us to watch the storms unfold:

  • Live KP: use this to see the KP over the next 45 or so minutes to time your trip outside
  • AuroraCast: NLN’s visualization of the current SWPC 3-day forecast
  • DSCOVR Solar Wind: Raw data that feeds the live KP model – be super science and predict earlier than the models!

NLN Live Blog Update – Sat May 20, 11:30 UTC (03:30 EST)

Thanks for following along the live blog! There may be some residual activity as solar wind is still high, but the storm appears to be over. Here’s a nice timelapse from @isaac_diener of last night’s activity.

NLN Live Blog Update – Sat May 20, 03:15 UTC (23:15 EST)

As anticipated, the third part of this storm is producing the most activity. But it hasn’t been much so far with geomagnetic activity just exceeding the KP=4 level. Solar winds are looking good, so there is still a chance for G1 storming in the next 3-5 hours.

Did you notice the short term KP forecast is behind? Occasionally the source data, which comes from a neural network run by the space weather prediction center goes offline. When it does, predictions come back from the model as -1. Clearly, the level of activity is not negative!

Wing KP model output  is offline - returning an estimated KP of -1
Wing KP model output is offline – returning an estimated KP of -1

When this happens, the best bet is to use the ovation aurora model – which you can find on our page title “Short Term Prediction Down? Use This!

Ovation model at the time of this update shows some activity.
Ovation model at the time of this update shows some activity.

NLN Live Blog Update – Fri May 19, 13:30 UTC (09:30 EST)

Earth is now in the coronal hole high speed wind. Wind speeds are approaching 500km/s. Over the last 45 minutes, Bz has dipped south. If this keeps up, the KP should tick back up.

Bz is now south in part three of this week's activity
Bz is now south in part three of this week’s activity

NLN Live Blog Update – Fri May 19, 01:45 UTC (21:45 EST)

With the start of 5/19 UTC, the G2 storm watch is now in effect as part three of this complex set of storms is expected to arrive. Over the last hour proton density has been steadily increasing. This is an indication that the CIR is about to arrive. It will be followed by high speed winds from the coronal hole. It should be clear in the next 3-5 hours if there will be strong aurora from this storm, of if it is another bust like the first two parts of this week’s activity. Aurora hunters world wide remain optimistic!

Proton density readings steadily rise over the last hour
Proton density readings steadily rise over the last hour

NLN Live Blog Update – Thurs May 18, 12:30 UTC (08:30 EST)

Overnight there was a brief period of northern lights between midnight and 1 am EST while the Bz was oriented southward. Since then, KP has been between 3 and 4. This was long enough for some aurora hunters to capture the show. Here are a couple clips from the NLN Twitter feed. Thanks for sharing!

NLN Live Blog Update – Thurs May 18, 04:15 UTC (00:15 EST)

Finally! Wing Kp model is calling for KP=5.00 shortly. Bz has turned south and persisted for over 2 hours, it has been hovering around -5nT for the last 30 minutes. That is strong enough to make the models predict aurora!

First predicted G1 storm period of this active period - shown on NLN's current KP real-time chart
First predicted G1 storm period of this active period – shown on NLN’s current KP real-time chart

NLN Live Blog Update – Thurs May 18, 01:00 UTC (21:00 EST)

Another quiet day. The maximum measured KP was 2.67. It appears the expected CME went to the South of Earth and we won’t be seeing any impact from it. SWPC updated the watches. They have cancelled the G2 watch for the 17th and downgraded the watch on the 18th to a G1 watch. They did maintain the G2 watch for the 19th and extend a new G1 watch to the 20th.

The third part of the expected storm should start to impact Earth late on the 18th (UTC) as Earth crosses a solar sector boundary and a co-rotating interactive boundary in advance of the wind from the next coronal hole. Then activity should pick up on the 19th as Earth enters the high speed wind from the coronal hole. This is illustrated in the WSA-Enlil (How to read Enlil ) below. Earth is the green filled circle on each of the graphs. At the top, see that density is high as Earth is in the SSBC, on the lower portion, see that wind speeds are picking up as Earth enters the wind stream.

Annotated Frame from WSA_Enlil model shows coronal holes, high speed wind arriving and high density from SSBC
Annotated Frame from WSA_Enlil model shows coronal holes, high speed wind arriving and high density from SSBC

It’s worth checking out the fully animated WSA-Enlil output at SWPC

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed May 17, 11:00 UTC (07:00 EST)

Solar wind speeds have been slowly decreasing overnight as the influence from the first coronal hole wanes. Winds speeds have dropped to around 500km/s. Bz has been oriented southward (negative) for over 2 hours now. The combination what is responsible for pushing short-term Kp predictions to between 3 and 4. Even with the strength of the field low, extended periods of Bz like this can lead to aurora. We aren’t expecting any amazing jumps in Kp until other solar wind parameters become more favorable.

The next feature that may become evident in this storm is the arrival or glancing blow from the CME that launched late on May 13. The material from the CME is slow moving and mostly to the south of Earth. SWPC models are indicating some of the material may have been on the Earth-Sun plane. Here is a snapshot of the CME in lasco C2 and C3 imagery. It is faint, but the CME can be seen as a “cloud” emanating from the bottom right of the Sun at starting around the 21:00 timestamp in C2 (orange/red) and the 22:30 timestamp in C3 (blue)

CME launches late on 5/13 as shown in LASCO C2 imagery from SOHO
CME launches late on 5/13 as shown in LASCO C2 imagery from SOHO
The same CME, but imaged in C3 - zoomed out a little.
The same CME, but imaged in C3 – zoomed out a little.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed May 17, 03:45 UTC (11:45 EST)

As of midnight, a G2 storm watch is now in effect. SWPC extended the watch an additional 24 hours through May 19. The 19th currently looks like it will be the most active day this week. G1 and G2 storming is predicted for all but one 3-hour period during the that day. Here is the NLN AuroraCast showing the predicted KP for each 3-hour time period over the next three days.

3-day AuroraCast shows very active geomagnetic activity the next three days - particularly on May 19
3-day AuroraCast shows very active geomagnetic activity the next three days – particularly on May 19

For the first day of this event, measured KP peaked at 3.00. Storm levels did not reach the G1 threshold.

NLN Live Blog Update – Tue May 16, 21:00 UTC (17:00 EST)

Despite a G1 storm watch posted for today, it doesn’t appear KP levels will reach 4.67 today. Solar wind speed have increased as a result of the coronal hole high speed stream and have been above 500km/s for most of the day. Solar winds reached a peak speed of 678km/s early in the UTC day, but have since declined. It is not unusual that a predicted G1 storm does not live up to expectations, there is plenty of activity predicted for the next 2 days and probably more. Stay tuned.

Early March G2 Aurora Strom Puts on a Global Show

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Northern Lights Now – An extended period of high solar winds, the result of a large Earth-directed coronal hole, put on a three day long show for aurora hunters in high latitudes in early March. Photographers captured aurora glows, pillars, picket fences, dancing displays and illuminated night landscapes from around the world between mid March 1 through early March 4. Here’s a spectacular time lapse video from Adam Hill showing a wave of northern lights racing westward through the sky.

This extended storm was measured by the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) as 9 periods of G1 storming and one period of G2 storming over 66 hours. G1 storming means the KP reached 4.67 and aurora can be visible as far south as Toronto, the upper midwest in the United States, Seattle and Scotland and can be seen as far north as Invercargill and Tasmania in the Southern Hemisphere. G2 storming means aurora can be seen at even lower latitudes near cities such as Portland, Boise, Dublin, Hamburg, Moscow and Christchurch. This chart show the first 5 days of March with the G1 and G2 3-hour periods showing in Red.

5 days of geomagnetic activity as measured by NOAA and SWPC
5 days of geomagnetic activity as measured by NOAA and SWPC

This early march storm is the result of a coronal hole that was pointed towards earth at the end of February. The hole is shown as a dark area on AIA 193 in the image below. It exposes the high speed solar wind emanating from the solar surface. Here’s an image of the coronal hole from the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Coronal hole in AIA 193 shown as a dark finger reaching up toward center disk from the pole
Coronal hole in AIA 193 shown as a dark finger reaching up toward center disk from the pole

Those high speed solar winds take 2-5 days to arrive at Earth, and when they do they push on the magnetosphere and can cause aurora. This means that when there is a coronal hole pointed towards Earth solar scientists can predict that there is a good chance for activity 1-3 days in advance. Watch for those predictions on the NLN 3-day aurora cast – potential G1 storming shows as orange on those charts.

Let’s enjoy the view! Here are a few of our favorite tweets from this storm:

Watch the cloud clear and the lights come out to play in this time lapse

Stan’s take shows the aurora in black and white – this really brings out the texture and shapes

This panorama is worth clicking on and viewing full screen!

Finally, one of our favorite types of aurora – the “Picket Fence”

If you would like to have a chance to see the northern lights in person, consider following the NLN twitter feed (@northlightalert) to learn more about why aurora happen and when they may be visible.

Coronal Hole Prompts Long Duration Aurora Watch Dec 7th, 8th & 9th

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Northern Lights Now – A large coronal hole that crosses the Solar equator will produce conditions conducive to aurora Thursday through Saturday this week. The expected enhanced solar winds could reach 700km/s and as a result SWPC has issued a three day G1 geomagnetic storm watch. This means KP values are likely to be enhanced and there is a good chance they will exceed KP=4.67.

G1 storm watch from SWPC has been extended to three days Dec 7 though Dec 9
G1 storm watch from SWPC has been extended to three days Dec 7 though Dec 9

This coronal hole is the return of a system that produced G1 storming on previous rotations in early October and November. Looking at the form and location of the coronal hole over the last four rotations, it is clear that it is a little farther north and bigger for this rotation. Each rotation takes about 27 days. Past experience has shown that the more of the coronal hole that passes through the center of the earth strike zone, the portion of the Solar disk pointed towards Earth, the longer the period of enhanced solar winds.

Mid September View of this month's Coronal Hole
Mid September View of this month’s Coronal Hole
Mid October View of this month's Coronal Hole
Mid October View of this month’s Coronal Hole
Early November view of this month's Coronal Hole
Early November view of this month’s Coronal Hole
Current view of this month's Coronal Hole
Current view of this month’s Coronal Hole

Close NLN readers and aurora hunters will recognize that this is a different coronal hole than the large system that has been producing storming in the second half of the month September, October and November. That system appeared to have been falling losing definition in the previous rotation, so when it rotates into view over the next couple weeks, watch it to see if it has regained organization or has continued to dissapate.

For this storm, the current expect timing of G1 storming conditions is just at the beginning of each UTC day during the watch period. The timing on these specific forecasts is difficult to predict but is often a good indicator of when it is worth keeping an eye on DSCOVR Solar wind data and the current KP.

NLN AuroraCast graphic shows the G1 periods should be at the start of each UTC day during the watch
NLN AuroraCast graphic shows the G1 periods should be at the start of each UTC day during the watch

Happy Hunting!