I’m actually still outside as I type this, in case the aurora decides to act up again! Tonight I saw the brightest sub-storm I’ve seen yet…from my deck! Before 10:30 PM I noticed a sub-storm brewing, which is a big deal if I can see it from my apartment. I could actually see structure and movement so I went out to my favorite dark sky spot. It’s always a tense drive if I wait until after there’s activity to get out of the city lights, but just even seeing a diffuse glow in the night sky that’s not the moon is thrilling along the way. Even so, once I got onto scenic north shore drive, I could see patches even while driving. Once I got to my spot, I could clearly see the homogeneous patches pulsating and moving. At that time, the aurora filled up about half of the northern sky with the “racing clouds” phenomenon.
I got to my spot just after 11 PM and for the first time saw “Steve” just west of the aurora. I stayed out until sometime after midnight, submitting a live Aurorasaurus report with my best photo at the time from the “Slow Shutter” app. Getting sleepy and cold, and since it was a work night (turned morning), I decided to head back home. I looked out my bedroom window to take a last gaze, and noticed it was quite bright! Then, I saw double homogeneous arcs start to form from the glow, so I grabbed my warm folding chair and rushed out to my deck (I’m lucky to be on the top floor and thus above the street lights). The arcs “broke up” into the colorful dancing ribbon, and I gasped as well as kicked myself for leaving my dark sky spot! I couldn’t believe how visible it was even from my apartment. After the band dissipated, I noticed those spiky, trapezoidal rays to the northeast, though this time from my vantage they were not as bright nor colorful. I watched the flaming phenomenon for awhile filling up the whole sky to the zenith from my vantage. The real clouds are now chasing me inside which is probably a blessing for my sleep, but also a tease as I can see the lights getting bright behind the clouds again! Once more, seeing that brightness behind the clouds which would usually be a full moon is a thrill in itself.
I spent the 1st 4 hours of the day gawking at the best aurora show I’ve ever seen. The moon had set, but cloud cover was intermittent and less than favorable. From midnight onward, there was a corona, and around 1:30 AM I submitted my first Aurorasaurus report. It especially picked up in activity around 2:30 AM. For most of the night, the arc was relatively quiet, although bright. At a few points, it broke up into a band with rays, which others have likened to a “picket fence.” The aurora became really active around 3 AM, and for the 1st time, I was able to see the purple at the lowest altitude edge of the curtain! The bottom edge was like a folded ribbon during the peak of the sub-storm!
I was lucky enough to catch my 1st sub-storm while driving on North Shore Drive! As I was driving, the sky practically exploded in front of me so I immediately pulled over and cut off my headlights. Not only were there bright green bands northward, but there were disconnected rays right in front of me! They were like diamond daggers, a sort of celestial firework that is hard to explain. I can’t even really find photos that do this phenomenon justice, because perhaps the camera picks up more light than the eye, so the effect is a little swamped out by the other light. They almost looked like a group of really diffuse comets with very broad, prismatic tails and geometric nuclei pointed toward the horizon.
This is a post my nerdy, hobby astronomy self has been sitting on for awhile. I follow the basics of aurora forecasting, but mostly lean on experts commenting in some of the groups I follow. Of course, I can’t content myself with this; I need to know more, especially because the science behind it seems fascinating! So, I came in knowing the basics about what an aurora is, but not much more than that. As it turns out, the solar wind warps the earth’s magnetic field, and more strongly so during solar events such as “flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and coronal holes that are directed towards Earth.” Re-connections ultimately cause aurora phenomena.
What do you see?
“The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.” – Northern Lights Center
I’ve been lucky enough to see all of this, though of course a taste means you always want to see more. I want to see a proton arc (if they’re visible to the naked eye), and colors! There is some debate about what the human eye can detect, but some people report seeing the red. Also, apparently auroras peak every 11 years, the last time being in 2013.
“Usually the best time of night (on clear nights) to watch for auroral displays is local midnight (adjust for differences caused by daylight savings time).” – Geophysical Institute
The aurora supposedly made an appearance tonight, in keeping with some recent solar activity. It has been so cloudy, though, and tonight was no exception.
The night was spectacular; I only wished I had something better than an iPhone to catch it all on! I caught this photo from the beach across from my apartment. I was watching a great northern lights show (a bright green homogeneous band over the city and the lake, reflecting off the water) when the moon began to rise over Lake Superior. At first it was just a bright red glow on the horizon, then the orange moon peeked its way over the surface. It was a little distorted by the water’s edge, which was neat to see. When the moon was higher, there was a long, orange moonbeam reflected all the way down the lake, with little ripples on the water. It’s one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen! It was a crystal clear night, with the milky way faintly visible and a few meteors. Also, so many birds were migrating over; the night was far from silent with a seemingly constant stream of flight calls overhead.