Stories tagged aurora

A major eruption on the Sun on June 7 sent high-energy particles spewing into space. They are expected to reach Earth on the night of Wednesday June 8 (Minnesota time). Astronomers are predicting a major aurora event, with the Northern Lights visible overhead as far south as Milwaukee, and possibly visible on the northern horizon as far south a southern Indiana and Washington DC! For Buzzers in the northern US / southern Canada, if the sky is clear tonight, go out, find a dark place away from city lights, face north and look up. No telescopes or other fancy equipment needed. You can even try to photograph them (use a long exposure, no flash, and set the camera on something steady.) If you get any photos, post them here in the comments.

For more info, and up-to-the-minute predictions, visit the Aurora Forecast page.

Aurora alert

by Gene on Dec. 15th, 2010

According to the Aurora Alert mailing list, a solar event on Dec 14th may produce auroral displays (northern lights) starting around midnight tonight, Wednesday 12/15, and continuing Thursday 12/16 and possibly Friday 12/17. Your best bet for seeing the lights -- if they occur -- is to get away from the city, find a dark place with a clear view to the north, and look low on the horizon. Clouds will block your view, so if it's overcast, don't bother.

No, it's not the Green Lantern.: It's Aurora Australis, or the Southern Lights, as seen from the International Space Station.
No, it's not the Green Lantern.: It's Aurora Australis, or the Southern Lights, as seen from the International Space Station.Courtesy NASA

Or possibly ever. An aurora over the Indian Ocean, photographed from the International Space Station.


Anybody see the eclipse last night? It looked something like this.

Looking ahead, Charles Deehr of the University of Alaska sends word of a great meteor shower coming on the night of August 31 / September 1. Unfortunately, by the time it hits, the eastern and Midwestern US will already be in daylight. This shower will only be visible on the West Coast, Hawaii and similar places. It's expected to start around 4:00 am PDT, plus or minus 20 minutes, so Californians need to get out there around 3:30 and look east.

He also tells us we may see some aurora activity around the equinox (September 22). The Sun is not particularly active this year, so it won't be a spectacular display -- though he expects next year to start getting better. Anyway, readers in Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and the very northern US (northern Minnesota, the UP, places like that) might get lucky and see some.

We've received the following aurora alert from the University of Alaska:

Those of you who live in southern Canada and northern USA where there is still enough darkness around midnight, might have some auroral displays between the 23rd and the 28th of May. This would also apply to Tasmania, southern New Zealand and Antarctica where there is no problem with daylight near midnight during this period.

For more info, visit this site.


The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are caused when particles streaming from the Sun strike the Earth's atmosphere. Solar activity is very difficult to predict -- you often get only one or two day's notice between the eruption of a solar storm and the aurora.

But Charles Deehr, Professor of Physics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has noticed a couple of recent "coronal holes" on the Sun that have been more stable than usual. Assuming these stay active, they could lead to aurora activity on the following dates:

Jan 15-22
Jan 29-Feb 6
Feb 12-19
Feb 25-Mar 2
Mar 11-18
Mar 24-30.

Deehr categorizes these events as "moderately active," meaning they may not be visible from the United States (or only the very northernmost part, above the 45th parallel). But if you're planning a trip to Canada or Alska during these times, look to the sky around midnight and tell us what you see.


Aurora, 12/14/06: Photo by Eugene Dillenburg.
Aurora, 12/14/06: Photo by Eugene Dillenburg.

Did anybody see the northern lights this week? I went out Thursday night, and it was awesome!

I headed out about 11:00 pm EST. Temps in the mid-40s -- not bad for mid-Michigan in mid-December! I walked a couple of blocks to a park near my apartment which I knew had a big field surrounded by trees, and no lights. On my way, I could see the sky glowing a pale green, as if the lights of the city were reflecting off a low cloud. Only, there were no clouds last night, and there's nothing but farmland north of Lansing.


Aurora borealis: over Edinburgh in 2004.Courtesy piglicker
Aurora borealis: over Edinburgh in 2004.
Courtesy piglicker

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are caused by high-energy particles streaming from the Sun collide with molecules high in the Earth’s atmosphere. The Sun has been pretty active of late, and scientists at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks are predicting another aurora peak for the night of the 19th, perhaps lasting through the night of the 20th. The aurora may be visible throughout Canada and the northern tier of states in the US, as well as Russia, Scandinavia, New Zealand and Tasmania.

Check their website for hourly forecasts , and for general information on auroras.

If you see the aurora, let us know! Post a comment with your location and the time you saw it (or didn’t see it), and we’ll try to produce an aurora map.


Aurora watch: Photo by Craig M. Groshek, via Wikipedia
Aurora watch: Photo by Craig M. Groshek, via Wikipedia

Here it comes

Sunspot 904 erupted yesterday, Aug.16. A lot of astronomers were watching as it happened. See pictures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Aurora watch alert

A coronal mass ejection (CME, movie) is heading toward Earth and could spark a geomagnetic storm when it arrives on August 18th or 19th. The cloud was hurled into space yesterday by a C3-class explosion in the magnetic field of sunspot 904. Sky watchers, prepare for auroras.

Watch for Northern Lights Friday and Saturday night.
Source; SpaceWeather