Tonight into tomorrow, northern hemisphere sky watchers as far south as Iowa or Michigan to Washington State are on aurora alert. Auroras are caused by charged particles hitching a ride on solar wind, dark skies turn undulating curtains of mischievous colour when charged particles interact with molecules in our atmosphere. Usually, our magnetosphere acts as a planetary shield preventing geomagnetic interaction of charged particles. Every so often fast moving particles overwhelm our magnetic field, create an opening and light up night skies.
On May 12, a magnetic filament on the sun, seen here, became unstable and erupted. (NASA/SDO)
Since Monday, 3 additional solar eruptions sent fast moving charged particles our way. As a result the auroral oval (doughnut shaped ring around the pole where charged particles follow magnetic field lines, reason why far northern latitudes regularly witness geomagnetic storms), has shifted far to the south.
The northern lights as seen looking eastward from just east of Penzance, Sask., at 1:21 a.m. local time Tuesday morning. (Submitted by Notanee Bourassa)
The colour of that light depends on the kind of molecule and the altitude of the collision.
Green is the most common colour, produced when the particles collide with oxygen at an altitude of around 100 to 300 km. At about 300 to 400 km, the interaction with oxygen produces red. Pink occurs below 100 km when nitrogen atoms are struck.
Bottom line – Space Weather Prediction Centre forecasters say there’s a 75% chance of geomagnetic storm activity tonight. If your skies are clear, go outside. If she’s willing, Aurora will find you. Opportunities like this don’t come along every day.
On April 5 NASA scientists launched sounding rocket mission AZURE (Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment) from Norway’s Andoya Space Center. Twin rockets deployed chemical tracers capable of allowing researchers to track the flow of neutral and charged particles during an active geomagnetic storm. Emergency service switchboards were inundated with UFO sighting hysteria – seems no one bothered to alert residents of AZURE’s chemical meddling.
Lights over Lapland webcam operator Chad Blakely captured the first chemical puffs. Video below from Adrien Mauduit documents the spectacle.
This evening, gloriously bruised skies created a twilight ponder. Twilight struck with realization most of us take her mesmerizing palette for granted. Far from a cosmic constant, twilight requires atmosphere to scatter rays of light in advance and conclusion of a visible Sun above the horizon.
Civil twilight falls when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. In the morning this is known as dawn, in the evening, dusk. This is the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the beginning of morning civil twilight, or end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under good atmospheric conditions in the absence of moonlight or other illumination. In the morning before the beginning of civil twilight and in the evening after the end of civil twilight, artificial illumination is normally required to carry on ordinary outdoor activities.
Nautical twilight begins when the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. At the beginning or end of nautical twilight, under good atmospheric conditions and in the absence of other illumination, general outlines of ground objects may be distinguishable, but detailed outdoor operations are not possible, and the horizon is indistinct.
Astronomical twilight defines a Sun 18 degrees below the horizon. Before the beginning of astronomical twilight in the morning and after the end of astronomical twilight in the evening the Sun does not contribute to sky illumination; for a considerable interval after the beginning of morning twilight and before the end of evening twilight, sky illumination is so faint that it is practically imperceptible.
Civil, nautical, astronomical, three clearly defined twilights that forgot to mention – twilight is also a colour, emotion and source of cosmic wonder unique to our planet.
From Adrien Mauduit at the Aurora observatory, Senja Island, Norway on March 17, 2019…
“It all started at around 10:00pm LT. Almost nothing until then when all of a sudden a big band appeared in the south. Around 10:30pm LT, a very nice show happened with some colorful and fast moving coronas.”
Adrien Mauduit is a visionary, an artist who captures the essence of Aurora in mesmerizing detail. Join me in appreciation of his vision by clicking on the link below and following Adrien Mauduit.
To the delight of Aurora watchers Earth’s magnetic field vibrates in protest of unrelenting solar wind. An Earth facing hole of monstrous proportion opened on the Sun, belching winds of 600 Km/second (that’s almost 1.2 mph ) toward our planet. Defensive vibrating twists in Earth’s magnetic field ignited powerful geomagnetic storms.
Astronomers predict intense aurora activity to continue for several days.
The current auroral oval commands the Northern Hemisphere. Anyone living under the oval owes it to themselves to look up under clear dark skies. Those lucky enough to meet Aurora, embrace her stamp of indelible wonder. She’s waiting – all you have to do is find her.
Its been a while since space weather graced this blog, far too long if you ask me. With that in mind, ponder a Sunday night space weather update.
As I write solar wind blows at 354.8 km/second, 1,967 potentially hazardous asteroids are identified within 100 LD (lunar distance) from our planet and 2 observable fireballs have been recorded in the past 24 hours. Despite a lull in solar activity courtesy cyclical expectations of solar minimum, a behemoth Earth facing hole in the Sun’s surface catapults solar wind in our direction. Contact with Earth’s magnetic field is anticipated on February 19 or 20th. Aurora watchers can expect geomagnetic storms.
Few people know what space weather is, let alone grasp how it impacts life on Earth. If you were a passenger on NetJets flight 795 from White Plains to Burbank last week, you received a radiation dose of x 68.4 that of radiation exposure at sea level. Space weather is real and it matters. Happy Sunday.
Adrien Mauduit, my favorite timelapse photographer, posted Winter Wonderland a few days ago. Shot over three months in Senja, Norway, no one better than Adrien to preface a Winter Wonderland….
“Within the arctic circle the winters can be harsh with long-lasting violent blizzards. However when the snow storm lets up and passes, it leaves a completely transformed landscape. All the familiar roads, trees, mountains and lakes are buried under a layer of deep snow taking on different sort of weird shapes. The flimsy birch trees are bending under the weight and look like they are welcoming your into a fairy-tale. The moon and the windless atmosphere play such an important role in creating a winter wonderland. Most of the sequences of this short timelapse film were shot during an interval of 3 days where the snow stuck to the branches. Senja’s ever-changing weather had the best of this fleeting environment very quickly but it took over 3 months to shoot all the scenes of this movie.
I really wanted the viewer to feel like they actually were in a dream straight from their winter childhood memory. Much like Narnia or Frozen you can just walk through the enchanted frozen forest, lie down in the scintillating fresh powder looking up at the branches contrasting with the blue sky and the northern lights, and all surrounded by the mountains and the sea. From the pink sunrises and sunsets of the winter polar days to the ice figures created on the frozen shore by the converging tides, not to mention the incredibly colorful displays of aurora borealis, get ready to experience an uplifting voyage through the magical astroscapes of Northern Norway.
All was shot with the Sony a7rII, Sony a7s and the Canon 6D Baader modified and a variety of bright lenses ranging from 14mm to 150mm. I used the Lonely Speck Pure Night and Matt Aust Light pollution filters to reduce light pollution and increase details on the deep-sky scenes and also the Vixen Polarie to track the stars and get cleaner shots. For motion control I used the Syrp 3-axis Genie I system and also the Vixen Polarie. All post production was made in Lr with the special timelapse plus plugin, Sequence for mac, TLDF, and final production was made in FCPX. I hope you like the movie as much as I liked shooting and processing it and I thank everyone of you for your support. All content is of course copyrighted AMP&F (except sountrack licensed through The Musicbed: Steven Gutheinz with ‘In the Balance’), and no footage can be used in any way without the author’s permission. Please contact me for media and purchase inquiry. Please share and comment if you liked the video and follow me for more videos like this one! More at adphotography-online.com.” – Adrien Mauduit