Geomagnetic Storm Aurora Alert


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.

This link – https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/solar-flares/index.html is worth a ponder. One of the best I’ve found in terms of understanding what makes space weather tick.

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.

 

Chemically Enhanced Aurora


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.

 

Geomagnetic Bliss By Adrien Mauduit


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.

https://www.youtube.com/user/amadrien21

Aurora Season


Don’t despair over fall dropping summer leaves, autumn is aurora season in the northern hemisphere. Auroras dance in the wake of geomagnetic storms – the product of blustery solar winds vibrating Earth’s magnetic field. Consider our magnetic field (magnetosphere) a protective barrier of protons and electrons. When uppity solar winds smack Earth’s magnetic bubble dislodged particles shower the atmosphere with auroras iconic glow. Spring and fall have twice the geomagnetic storms as summer and winter, the product of interplanetary tilt near the equinoxes.

Interplanetary tilt – think of our sun as an enormous magnet, all planets in our solar system orbit within the Sun’s magnetosphere. At magnetopause, the point at which the farthest reach of Earth’s magnetosphere battles solar forces, our magnetic field points north. No harm no foul unless the Sun’s magnetic field tilts south, a defining characteristic occurring near the equinoxes. When north and south facing magnetic fields link up, Earth’s magnetic field is partially cancelled at point of contact, with wild abandon displaced particles dance the northern lights.

Science calls the north/south facing magnetic portal Bz. Negative south pointing Bz’s allow solar wind energy to penetrate Earth’s magnetic fortress, positive north pointing Bz’s slam the door shut. Bz’s ebb and flow in response to Earth’s wobbly axis. Every spring and fall Earth’s axis careens obligingly towards gates of the Bz portal – aurora season has arrived.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/pictures/110408-new-aurora-pictures-deep-sky-northern-lights-space/

Autumn is Aurora Season

Aurora Spring


Every March, aurora spring taunts science. Persistent cheekiness flies in the face of conventional wisdom – inexplicably, sudden auroras erupt with alarming intensity.  “Auroral substorms” herald the return of northern hemisphere Spring. In 2007 NASA launched the THEMIS mission (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms), five identical satellites lined up to detect streams of plasma and cosmic particles.

“The satellites have detected magnetic ‘ropes’ connecting Earth’s upper atmosphere directly to the Sun,” says Dave Sibeck, project scientist for the mission at the Goddard Space Flight Center. “We believe that solar wind particles flow in along these ropes, providing energy for geomagnetic storms and auroras.”

Leaving science to hunt substorm’s elusive key – treat yourself to four and a half minutes of the “world’s first real time northern lights”. Unadulterated, void of timelapse pageantry – a catch your breath audience with aurora spring.

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/20mar_spring/

Solstice Auroras


Northern hemisphere winter arrived this morning at 4:48 UT. For an imperceptible moment -23.5 degrees on the celestial sphere heralded our shortest day, longest night. Oblivious to the sun reaching its southernmost declination, far north chortled in approval to the sorcery of aurora’s incantation.

Whitehorse, Yukon December 21, 2015

Oliver Nagy made this cool image between the June and December solstices in 2014. The camera was fixed to a single spot for the entire exposure time, and it continuously recorded the sun's path as glowing trail s across the sky. The breaks and gaps between the lines are caused by clouds. This image shows the shifting path of the sun over the months between a June and December solstice. As seen from the Northern Hemisphere, the sun's path gets lower each day.

Oliver Nagy made this cool image between the June and December solstices in 2014. The camera was fixed to a single spot for the entire exposure time, and it continuously recorded the sun’s path as glowing trail s across the sky. The breaks and gaps between the lines are caused by clouds. This image shows the shifting path of the sun over the months between a June and December solstice. As seen from the Northern Hemisphere, the sun’s path gets lower each day.

http://earthsky.org/tonight/southernmost-sun-brings-december-21-solstice?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=183a69ac95-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-183a69ac95-393970565

 

Severe Solar Storm


Solar storms rank on scales much like hurricanes – minor category 1 – extreme category 5. Last night, predictions of geomagnetic energy from uppity sunspot AR2297 delivered a severe category 4 wallop to expectant sky watchers. A remarkable 8 on the KP index(scale measuring magnetic strength), this storm rates as one of the most powerful in a decade.

I’ve spent 35 years in Vancouver, only once before have Auroras graced my fair city. Storms of this magnitude often disrupt GPS, cell phones and power grids – despite an unexpected magnitude, so far this storm chooses to spare disruption in favour of pizazz.

Indications point to weakening presence, yet science has no idea when it will fizzle. NOAA gives “a strong possibility” auroras may be viewed early this morning as far south as Tennessee and Oklahoma.

If this ponder finds you awake under clear skies – find a dark corner and gaze at the sky. Aurora just might find you.

Photographer Matt Melnyk took this photo in the Sage Hill area of Calgary, Alberta, on March 17, 2015.

Image – Matt Melnyk, Calgary Alberta

View image on Twitter

Image taken by Ellen Monteith at 2:30 am March 16, Barriere B.C.

Vancouver-Aurora---17-March

I may lose my mind – this image taken last night in Vancouver

Northern lights grace the sky on St. Patrick's Day

Image – Notanee Bourassa, Regina Saskatchewan

http://www.newslocker.com/en-ca/region/ajax/northern-lights-kick-off-st-patricks-day-festivities/