Recent Auroral Activity, Prediction Websites, And Chances Of The Next Few Days – Head’s Up!

Greetings fellow astrophiles (and those checking in from the syracuse.com page about auroral activity this week)!

For those not in the magnetic field line loop, Sunspot 2371 (which several of us saw in full glory at the Hazard Branch Library this past Saturday) let off a significant coronal mass ejection (CME for short) in our direction that made it to Earth two days ago. This has produced some gorgeous aurora for those not coated in cloud cover or light pollution (as was the case for Syracuse at its peak on Monday). CNYO’s David Wormuth has kept the board aware of potential observing the past two nights, while at least one member of ASRAS posted a picture from his own locale that shows just enough aurora with an 8 second exposure. When Glenn Coin from syracuse.com asked about potential activity yesterday, I “kept it local” by passing the image along (included in Glenn’s article “Northern lights could be visible this week in Upstate New York”).

The current auroral activity from SWPC/NOAA

We may be due for another glow-worthy event in the next day or two as a smaller storm passes by. We’re keeping track of predictions for early-early Thursday morning to see if activity will be worth waking up extra early for (or not sleeping at all). If you want to see/capture aurora:

Naked Eye:

* Look North!
* The higher (the elevation) the better
* Avoid having a big city to your North
* For the best view, wait until the Moon sets. That’s going to put you out to 2 or 3 a.m. right now, but not having its glow will improve auroral sights.

Camera – same as Naked Eye observing, but include the following:

* High ISO (+1600)
* Longer exposures (try the 5 second to 15 second range on most small cameras, then experiment with longer sessions with a good DSLR)
* Steady tripod – it is supposed to be clear enough in the next few nights, but wind will complicate your picture taking

Want to keep track for yourself?

www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/NorthAmerica – The direct North America prediction page from the Geophysical Institute

www.swpc.noaa.gov/communities/space-weather-enthusiasts – The Space Weather Enthusiast dashboard from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (you didn’t even know we had one of those!)

solarham.net – Solar activity isn’t just for space scientists. The Sun is of great importance to HAM Radio operators. You can tell how serious they are by the very thorough presentation of data.

www.aurorasaurus.org – this is an awesome idea. It’s a perfect mix of twitter and google maps. If you see aurora, you make a quick post on the website to let others know it may be active in your area. If enough people report, I say trust the posts and make a drive. Why wait for predictions when you can keep track of real-time data?

We’ll be keeping track of events over the next few days. For those who want to see what caused the whole mess, I encourage you to come to Liverpool Public Library tonight for their How-To Festival, where we’ll have solar scopes (and solar glasses) available to get a good view of the very prominent sunspots currently on the surface. And if we go late enough, maybe even a sneak peak of Jupiter and Venus as their conjunction brings them especially close to one another on June 30th (which we plan to have a session for as well. Stay tuned!).

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