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Sept 6-10 Aurora G3 Storm 2017 – NLN Live Blog pt1

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Northern Lights Now – A G3 storm watch is in effect for September 6 and 7 thanks to a solar storm launched from an Earth-directed solar eruption at active region 2673. Aurora hunters are expecting a mid-latitude display. Northern Lights Now will keep you up to date on the latest information in this live blog. We’ll be updating regularly, so come back often.

This is part 1 of 3, check out the other links:

Live Blog Sept 6-10 Part 2
Live Blog Sept 6-10 Part 3

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 22:30 UTC (18:30 EST 9/6)
Live blog time: 22h 30m

With the addition of today’s X9.33 flare, the G3 Storm watch has been extended to 96 hours and continues through Sept 9. This should mean pretty almost all viewing areas should have at least some clear skies during the storm period. Also, by Sept 9 the moon is less bright and there’s a longer time between Sunset and Moonrise.

Notification timeline now shows a G3 geomagnetic storm watch extending 4 days.
Notification timeline now shows a G3 geomagnetic storm watch extending 4 days.

There are hints the shock is about to hit – temp decreasing, wind and density more variable. CME could arrive in next 30-180mins.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 19:15 UTC (15:30 EST 9/6)
Live blog time: 19h 30m

Busy day! The active region responsible for the predicted storm produced two X class flares (so far!) today. The bigger flare was measured at X9.33 making it the biggest solar flare of the current solar cycle. The last time there was an X-Class flare was May 5, 2015. Stay tuned for more info on the CME released during this eruption. So far, initial imagery indicates it is likely to the south and west of Earth, but it’s too early to rule out a glancing blow around Sept 8/9.

As it is now getting dark in Europe, the anticipated solar storm has not arrived yet. It is a little late, but it is still well within the bounds of the prediction confidence intervals. Hang tight.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 11:15 UTC (07:15 EST 9/6)
Live blog time: 11h 15m

As of this update, the CME has not arrived at Earth yet. Bz has been south for over an hour, which may prime the magnetosphere to ring when the shock arrives. We expect there will be at least three distinct phases to this solar storm.

Bz is south in advance of the CME shock arrival
Bz is south in advance of the CME shock arrival

First, when the initial shock hits, it will have high density (all the protons that it has swept up as it travels through space), and a big spike in wind speed. This will be measured at DSCOVR about 30-45 minutes before it arrives at Earth. Once it arrives, the aurora may dance, but the wing KP won’t reflect it yet.

Second, we will enter the first phase of the storm. It is impossible to know until it arrives if it will be oriented correctly for aurora. If Bz is negative, we should see a good show. Third, there may be a second shock and a new phase of Bz as a second, slower, CME arrives.

You can watch the Wind Speed in real time on our site (it auto-refreshes). This will be the best tool for predicting when the initial shock arrives at Earth. After that monitor the KP here.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 03:15 UTC (23:15 EST 9/5)
Live blog time: 03h 15m

Know your local viewing conditions. The best viewing conditions are when it is dark and clear. This storm will be tricky because the forecast calls for clouds or smoke in a lot of the typical hot-spots for viewing. It is also a nearly full moon. There will be a window between sunset and moonrise that it should be really dark. You should be able to get good photos even when the moon is out – do long exposures and photograph a part of the sky where the moon isn’t.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 00:00 UTC (20:00 EST 9/5)
Live blog time: 00h 00m

The G3 watch period has started. We aren’t expecting storming conditions to start for at least another 12 hours. In advance of the storm, watch the EPAM rise. We’ll know the initial shock of the storm hits when solar wind jumps and Bt, Bz and density make big shifts. In the meantime, here is the SWPC forecast for max KP expected in each three hour block over the next 24 hours. Expecting 7 blocks of G1 and above, 5 of G2 and above and 2 of G3.

Purple on the NLN auroraCast clock indicates expected G3 storming
Purple on the NLN auroraCast clock indicates expected G3 storming

G3 Aurora lights up the Sky Memorial Day weekend 2017

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Northern Lights Now – It may be approaching the quieter part of the Solar cycle, but the Sun isn’t done giving Aurora hunters eye candy yet. A solar storm launched on May 23 from the Sun arrived at Earth with a bang late Saturday. The setup of the storm was great for viewing aurora, the Moon was a waxing crescent, it was the weekend, many of the top viewing spots had clear skies, and the CME was oriented in a nearly perfect angle.

Check out NLN’s top 100 tweets page from this storm.

In Vermont, this turned out to be one of the best storms I have personally seen. The KP started rising quickly mid-to-late afternoon. Around Sunset the KP hit 6.33 – high enough that it should be possible to see the aurora dance. By 1:00am it was full on “Pants on” time. I drove to Malletts Bay.

As I arrived, the sky was dancing. Another photographer was just finishing up a half hour time-lapse. Even with some light pollution from Colchester, Montreal, and Plattsburgh, it was easy to see the sky glowing and pillars moving. Lake Champlain was calm so it was possible to see the aurora reflecting off the water.

Epic Aurora and reflections off Lake Champlain During G3 storming on Memorial Day Weekend 2017
Epic Aurora and reflections off Lake Champlain During G3 storming on Memorial Day Weekend 2017

With the Bz solidly below -15nT, the show would go on for 6+ hours. Like any northern lights, the intensity varied from minute to minute. At times it looked like the show might be over. At other times I felt like the luckiest guy on Earth.

One of those lucky moments was getting to watch a meteor streak and flash through the sky. My camera wasn’t pointed in the right direction (or in an exposure at the moment), but a fellow photographer and friend caught it! Here is Brian Drourr’s photo from the moment it streaked by

What an Epic night!
Happy Hunting

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.