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Surprise G1 Aurora Storm on August 23/24 2016

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Northern Lights Now – The high speed wind stream from a coronal hole that was pointed towards Earth on August 21 is arriving with a stronger than expected impact. As a result KP values are reflecting an ongoing G1 level storm. The storm has allowed aurora hunters to see the lights in Denmark and Sweden and in the US in Maine. The initial forecasts only called for a period of enhanced solar wind speeds and a max KP value of 4. This is the coronal hole that is currently impacting Earth as it looked on August 21:

Aug 21 coronal hole produces Aurora and G1 storming on Aug 23rd and 24th
Aug 21 coronal hole produces Aurora and G1 storming on Aug 23rd and 24th

The high speed wind arrived earlier than expected, and stronger than expected. As an added bonus for our readers, it arrived with a period of several hours of southern oriented Bz. When the Bz component of the magnetic fields have negative readings, it means aurora are more likely. As this storm was building, it arrived with a period of over 4 hours where the Bz was negative from about 16:00-20:00 UTC. At points it was strongly negative with readings of -10Bz. This is the image of NLN’s accumulated aurora power chart from the peak of the first wave of the storm:

DISOVR accumulate Aurora power Graph from the peak of the first wave of the storm
DISOVR accumulate Aurora power Graph from the peak of the first wave of the storm

There are a couple interesting things to point out in that graph:

  • At the time of the snapshot the total magnetic field (Bt) had been strong for over 12 hours, and very strong in the last hour.
  • Wind speeds had really only just started picking up in the last 2 hours.
  • The real kicker was that Bz had been negative for over 2 hours and was as strong at -10nT (very strong) for 5 minutes.

It is rare that a coronal hole triggers all 4 of these metrics at the same time on this chart. When they are all there, it’s a good sign for aurora hunters.

Here are some of the shots that we saw come in on Twitter:

Some of the first Images of this storm came from Denmark by @ADphotography24:

Another from Sweden by Göran Strand (Also the first wave of this storm):

From Rob Write (@RobWrightImages) on the Southern Maine Coast (in the second wave of this storm):

As of 3:20 UTC August 24 at the time of this writing, the storm has subsided a little. It looks like there could be anywhere from 3-6 more hours of enhanced solar wind speeds, and at any point the Bz could dip back south. If it does, Aurora hunters could be in for more of a treat. Keep an eye on the solar wind data.

Also, there is another coronal hole rotating towards Earth that has a history of producing good aurora. This could impact Earth on Aug 30th and 31st…. stay tuned!

Happy Hunting

August 2nd & 3rd Solar Storm Live Blog

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Northern Lights Now – SWPC has posted a G2 storm watch for August 2nd and a G1 storm watch for August 3rd. NLN will keep a live blog of the storm as it unfolds here.

Update 8/4 2:30 UTC (10:30pm EST)

A quick recap: The big winners for aurora photography in this storm were the Northern states west of the Great Lakes and Canada, New Zealand and Tasmania. Denmark was also in the sweet spot at the very beginning of the storm when the initial CME arrived. There were a couple pictures of faint pillars in ME, NH and VT as well.

Solar wind never quite reached the high levels expected in the prediction. The helps explain why the storming started a little later than predicted also – if the wind is moving slower, it takes longer to travel from the Sun to Earth. In the end there were four periods of G1 storming recorded.

Thanks for following along for this storm!

This solar storm is done, in total 4 periods of G1, and 4 periods of KP=4. 24 hours total.
This solar storm is done, in total 4 periods of G1, and 4 periods of KP=4. 24 hours total.

Update 8/3 16:30 UTC (12:30pm EST)

The storm seem be dying down. Solar wind speeds have picked up, but they did not reach the predicted 600+ km/s. Here’s a create timelapse video from overnight from Robert Snache (@spirithands)

Update 8/3 11:00 UTC (7:00am EST)

So many wonderful pictures overnight. There were 3 periods of G1 recorded, and it appears there is a 4th happening now. There is an outside chance that the current period will reach G2. Here are a couple tweet with aurora pictures the we’ve seen overnight:

Back of cam:

Angel Brise finds some gems on webcams:

In Regina:

Neil Zeller:

Update 8/3 04:45 UTC (12:45am EST)

Starting about an hour ago, Bz dipped back south. Bt is still very strong, so this may be enough to produce some more pillars in the mid-latitudes. Aurora hunters will still probably need long exposures to get a good view. KP=5.33 (G1) in 20 minutes. Here’s a look at the boulder KP 3-hour averages so far – notice that storming didn’t technically reach G2 levels during the last substorm:

Two periods of storming so far in this solar storm
Two periods of storming so far in this solar storm

Update 8/2 23:00 UTC (7:00pm EST)

G2 storming is now predicted by the Wing-KP model. KP=6 shortly! This is almost exactly when the initial forecasts indicated we might see G2 storming. The strong solar wind hasn’t really picked up yet – wind speeds have only just touched 450 km/s.

Wing-KP shows KP=6 soon on August 2
Wing-KP shows KP=6 soon on August 2

Bz shifted to the north, so NLN is expecting this storm to be short lived. Good luck. Hopefully there will be more later tonight

Update 8/2 22:30 UTC (6:30pm EST)

First aurora picture of the night! This tweet shows a photo from Denmark by Twitter follower @ADphotography24

Update 8/2 21:45 UTC (5:45pm EST)

Around 8:00am UTC Bz made a decisive shift to the south. This should be good for aurora hunters and we expect to see some pictures coming in soon. We also expect the wing-KP models to reflect this aurora within the next 2-3 hrs.

Update 8/2 06:30 UPC (2:30am EST)

The first hints of the expected solar storm from the filament eruption appear to be arriving. Solar wind, density and Bt/Bz all reflected the shocks impact. The shock was weaker than expected, but also a little earlier than expected. We’re not really expecting any aurora yet, still plenty of hours ahead for a show.

Initial CME arrives around 04:00 UTC on August 2
Initial CME arrives around 04:00 UTC on August 2

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