Dancing Skies
January 29, 2012 7:52 PM   Subscribe

We were using this to look for the aurora last week. Fun times but not much in VT except a glimmer on the horizon. I enjoyed looking at other people's photos though.
posted by jessamyn at 7:55 PM on January 29, 2012

It's a bit sad that I hardly ever look up for the lights anymore.
posted by ODiV at 7:58 PM on January 29, 2012

I had the following internal monologue yesterday.

"Hmm, I have some free time ... What should I do. Oh, the aurora is supposed to be big right now and I've always meant to see it. Alaska Airlines prices look reasonable. Let's see, weather in Fairbanks HOLY CHRIST WHAT THE HELL IS THAT NEGATIVE FIFTY ONE DEGREES. I've been meaning to get some diving in, I wonder if I can get a cheap ticket to Maui...."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:13 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Iceland has a temperate climate, btw. Scotland isn't nearly as far north, but it's warmer than NYC in winter.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:21 PM on January 29, 2012

Some more links snarfed and barfed from the post about the auroras last week.

http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/ A monitoring service based out of Aberdeen that's pretty good for finding when it's visible in the UK

The Canopus Auroral Oval from Canada

Planetary K index - and what that is.

crowd sourced solar forcasting

Solar wind data from a satellite that can provide a bit of an early warning.

Solaris Alpha is quite a handy (albeit non-free) android app that can ping you when there are solar flares and when the aurora may be visible where you are. [there are also magnetometer apps, but not had the conditions to test whether they can be used for aurora detection yet, previous reading suggests not, but...]

Or, if you want to go the lo-fi route, you can make your own pop bottle magentometer (there's also variants you can make involving using long pieces of wire, or sticking nails in trees, but not finding the link right now.


and as a bonus, a page full of dials!


Although, it turns out that there's isn't going to be any more solar activity for ages, and the Thames is going to freeze, and cats are going start riding dogs with little saddles and whips, and we're all doomed... it must be true, I read it in the Daily Mail yesterday.
posted by titus-g at 8:29 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Alaska Airlines prices look reasonable. Let's see, weather in Fairbanks HOLY CHRIST WHAT THE HELL IS THAT NEGATIVE FIFTY ONE DEGREES.

So, it turns out that the temperature at which everyone is talking about how cold it is here in Fairbanks is, yep, 50 below. A friend said she was in a meeting all day yesterday and everyone --- even folks that have lived here a long time --- was checking their iPhones. "look, it's -48 ! Now it's -51!"

It's really cold. We used our hot tub last night (mostly so we could say we had, but actually it was nice) and it was so cold that the steam from the hot tub condensed and turned to snow all over the sunroom.

And last week, when we were supposed to have the amazing auroras, it was cloudy.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:05 PM on January 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

We use this in Anchorage all the time now that activity is picking up a bit, although the short-term (one hour) forecast was frustratingly wonky for most of this month. Last week we saw some decent dancing lights at ungodly hours on the clear days (for the first time in years!)- it help that the boyfriend often works past midnight and that I don't much mind being woken for a good reason.

We were talking about how neat it would be to be in Fairbanks where the light are more reliable and spectacular, and then remembered while we've been whining about our coldest January in decades with an average termperature of 2.7 degrees F, Fairbanks has also been enjoying the coldest January in ages with temperatures averaging -24.6 F. I'll take my wussy Anchorage lights, thankyouverymuch, am not nearly woman enough for the Interior.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:56 PM on January 29, 2012

Oh, and you can sign up for auroral e-mail alerts on that UAF site, which a lot of people seem to miss. They e- mail every time activity is predicted to be more than a 4 on a 1-10 scale.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:05 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

For those who live in the southern reaches of the planet that are upset by the BLATANT NORTHERN BIAS of this post, here are a few links: (Disclaimer: I don't actually live in the Southern Hemisphere, but I tend to stick up for my fellow brothers and sisters in the far south. It's hard enough living in a country that's upside down all the time without having to deal with all the petty insults and discrimination.)
posted by lemuring at 2:32 AM on January 30, 2012

For aurora, I'd go to the Keweenaw Peninsula in summer. Well, to be honest, spring/fall might be better, sunset is *very* late in the summer, but it's warm and more than far enough north (geomagnetically north, that is).

More importantly, once you get out of Houghton/Hancock, you get some superb dark sky, and dark skies are a big part of being able to see the aurora. Odds will be improving as we continue to solar maximum in Solar Cycle 24.

Solar Cycle 24 started with an unusually long solar minimum, and is currently predicted to be about half as intense as Solar Cycle 23, and the least intense since Solar Cycle 6 in 1823, but the last couple of months have been well above the predicted trend line, so it may make a better showing of itself.

If we get a bingo geomagentic storm -- K index 8+, then much of the US can see Aurora, but the best way, again, is to get out of the city lights. It's not impossible -- I remember once seeing the Aurora from a parking lot in St. Louis -- but it's much easier if you can get rid of much of the sky glow.
posted by eriko at 6:31 AM on January 30, 2012

Thanks for that link, charmedimsure. I used to subscribe to an aurora alert e-mail service but I lost the link years ago. I was all excited last week (I'm far south enough that Auroras are really rare) but we were utterly socked in here.
posted by gamera at 2:27 PM on January 30, 2012

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