Northern Lights Now – Geomagnetic conditions reached G1 storm level over the weekend. Aurora hunters across Canada were treated to a show. Even with low solar wind speeds that just touched 400 km/s, a long duration of south oriented Bz combined with high plasma density was enough to activate the magnetosphere. The recorded 3-hour observations from the storm show one period of Kp=5 in the first period of May 11 followed by sever periods of KP=4
There was not a storm watch posted in advance of this activity, but the SWPC daily forecast discussion mentioned the possibility. The forecaster’s note from May 9 read “The anticipated arrival of the 6 May CME is expected to result in unsettled to active conditions, with a chance for an isolated period of G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storm levels, later on 11 May.” NLN was posting on the Twitter feed that there was a chance for activity in advance of the storm, but the activity exceeded our expectations.
As the storm arrived, it became clear that Earth was going to be in the core of the arriving CME and that it was oriented favorably for Northern Lights. Proton density was high for hours in advance of the CME arrival shock. Once it arrived, Bz dipped south and stayed oriented south for 5-6 hours. Wind speed did not increase above 400km/s in the first part of the core of the storm, as so geomagnetic activity remained muted. But the long duration south oriented Bz primed the magnetosphere for the second phase of the storm.
As the second phase arrived, Bz dropped deeply south and stayed consistent. This drove the KP to storm levels and it coincided with night across much of Western Canada.
A G1 geomagnetic storm was on tap for parts of Canada last night and with clear skies for the first time in a long time around here I headed out. Taken NW of Red Deer, Alberta between 2:30 and 3:30 AM this morning. #Aurora#NorthernLightspic.twitter.com/kgWyomVqC1
Northern Lights Now – The late September geomagnetic activity resulting from a large coronal hole has exceeded initial expectations reaching G3 storm levels and helping aurora hunters world-wide capture staggering views. Solar wind speeds have been between 650 and 750 km/s for just over 24 hours now. Periods of high density and negative Bz, and quickly fluctuating Bz during that time pushed KP values above 6.67 for several hours.
The timing worked well for aurora hunters from Northern Europe across Northern North America. Clouds disrupted viewing in the UK and New England, but many locations saw vivid displays of Green, Red and Purple overnight.
Wendy T shared this great set of 4 images
Thanks Everyone. Heres' a few from last night (not off back of camera but straight off!) Fingers crossed for more tonight.. pic.twitter.com/zr7IEKeyGA
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.
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.
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