Category Archives: Solar Storm Recap

Great Night for Aurora May 27-28 2017

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Northern Lights Now – It was a terrific night for aurora tonight! We’ll be posting more later – but here’s a back of camera snapshot taken while we were out on the hunt in Colchester VT.

Back of Cam Aurora in Colchester, VT - May 28, 2017
Back of Cam Aurora in Colchester, VT – May 28, 2017

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.

Update #2: Mid-October Aurora Reached G2 storming, G3 predicted

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Northern Lights Now – The predicted G1, then upgraded to G2, aurora predicted for October 13-15 is meeting and exceeding expectations. KP values recorded in 3-hour increments by the airforce and SWPC were registering between G1 and G2 for much of the day. KP predictions from the Wing-KP model ranged from 4.67 to 7.67 from Noon GMT through Midnight GMT. SWPC has upgraded the watch level on the 14th to G3. Storming will likely only reach that level if the storm continues to intensify – and there have been some hints that it is starting to wane. Here is the chart showing today’s recorded geomagnetic activity:

Global Geomagnetic activity recorded on Oct 13 in 3-hour increments
Global Geomagnetic activity recorded on Oct 13 in 3-hour increments

At the peak of today’s storm the Bz had rotated powerfully to the south, registering as much as -20 nT. This is some of the strongest negative orientation of the Bz since the Saint Patrick’s day storm of 2015. In addition to being strongly south, the field maintained that orientation for a long time. As of this writing, the Bz had been negative for almost 20 hours. This is the longest duration negative Bz since NLN started producing this graphic that shows the duration certain important thresholds for aurora have been exceeded:

NLN Solar Wind Charts show long duration and powerfully south oriented Bz and strong Bt too
NLN Solar Wind Charts show long duration and powerfully south oriented Bz and strong Bt too

With a storm this strong, we’d normally expect to see many wonderful aurora pictures rolling in from our readers and aurora hunters. However, there were a lot of clouds in the normal viewing locations. In NLN’s HQ city of Burlington Vt it was raining most of the day and is cloudy this evening. The Moon is also nearly full, currently at 94% visible, and is washing out the aurora for people who have clear skies. That isn’t stopping photographers, and there are a few beautiful pictures rolling in. Here are a few. Please tag @northlightalert in your photos if you’d like to have them featured in the NLN blog!

Ontario got in on the action:

And upstate New York in Rochester:

Behind a tractor in Wisconsin:

Just a hint from Ireland: