Aurora Borealis
November 9, 2004 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Last night's aurora borealis was seen in, among other places, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Recent sightings are reported here, and lots of charts and graphs that I don't understand are here courtesy of the government.
posted by PrinceValium (20 comments total)
AskMetaFilterFilter--is there a (DC) Metro-accessible spot that I could try to see the lights from tonight?
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2004 provides a free service which can send you alerts when the predicted Kp index is sufficiently high that aurorae are likely to be visible where you are.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2004

also Chicago
(chicago tribune link, click here for u/p.
posted by orelius at 11:15 AM on November 9, 2004

I was flying PDX-ORD-STL on a late flight, and it may have rated as the coolest flight I've ever taken. First, Mts. Adams, Rainier and St. Helens, then, Aurora all the way.

When I finally got home (around 11:30PM CST -- ORD was delayed by winds forcing a bad runway config) I went to my car, and realized that I could still see the Aurora -- by looking north, over the incredibly brightly lit terminal and ramp.

Wasn't the best aurora that I saw -- that was this year, in the Keeweenaw on the UP of Michigan -- where I spent several hours looking *south* at the northern lights.
posted by eriko at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2004

Last night's aurora borealis was seen in, among other places...

Um, for the record, that was the night before last--not last night.

I know, because I saw them. And agrees:

Sky watchers have already seen one spectacular display this week: on Nov. 7th when auroras appeared in the United States as far south as Alabama and California.

and notes as well:

If it's dark where you live, look for auroras now. A geomagnetic storm, sparked by two coronal mass ejections hitting Earth's magnetic field today, is in progress and intensifying.

In their November 2004 Aurora Gallery, one photograph is from last night--all the rest are from the night before...

I have never seen aurora so bright in Seattle. I just wish I could gotten out of town.
posted by y2karl at 11:43 AM on November 9, 2004

Hey, I saw 'em, too. Not nearly as bright up here, though, which is a little surprising.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:54 AM on November 9, 2004

A cloud appears above your head.
A beam of light comes shining down on you.
Shining down on you.

The cloud is moving nearer still.
Aurora borealis comes in view.
Aurora comes in view.

And I ran.
I ran so far away.
I just ran.
I ran all night and day.
I couldn't get away.

posted by psmealey at 11:56 AM on November 9, 2004

Yep, I meant Sunday. Sorry about that. For law students, weekends mean nothing.
posted by PrinceValium at 12:22 PM on November 9, 2004

I saw it last night about halfway through a late flight from Chicago to Hartford. Faint, blue streaks, lasted about five minutes; looked exactly like the patterns you get when light reflects off a bit of rippled cellophane onto the ceiling. Nifty, but i'm a bit jealous of some of the displays others have seen -- this was pretty subtle.
posted by ook at 12:28 PM on November 9, 2004

This plot shows the current extent and position of the auroral oval in the northern hemisphere, extrapolated from measurements taken during the most recent polar pass of the NOAA POES satellite.

The arrow indicates the position of solar noon. The orange part of that oval is going to swing around and down, and, from the looks of it, appears to indicate there will be easily visible aurora along the northern tier of the 48 states tonight. That is from SOHO Current Space Weather.

The last time I saw aurora was in August of 2000, again in Seattle. What I found remarkable then and last Sunday night were the subtle and rapid strobing waves that passed across the entire sky. I was familiar with the slowly streaming curtains from childhood but along with those, these last two times, were sparkles, swaths of light that shot across the meridian and rippling waves redolent of those produced by dying neon lights overlayed in a glaze upon the curtain auroras. As someone said Sunday night, I haven't seen anything like this since forty minutes after the last time I dropped acid.

The ones I saw Sunday were a pale green, but that was from along Gilman Drive on the West side of Queen Anne Hill, which is festooned with those orange sodium vapor street lights. I wish now I'd hopped on my bike and rode over to Discovery Park.
posted by y2karl at 12:58 PM on November 9, 2004

...and of course it's cloudy here. This place is not astronomy friendly, damnit.
posted by Salmonberry at 4:44 PM on November 9, 2004

Saw it Sunday night too, in Ottawa, Ontario. My friend put some photos online, but I'd feel bad linking to them here. I'd never seen one before. It was a pale green and was mistaken by some in our party (not me!) for clouds. ;)

Oh, and: For law students, weekends mean nothing.

You're working too hard, dude. Way, way too fucking hard. Plus, you're just perpetuating the stereotype that law is complicated and hard and stuff. I keep thinking I'm going to get thrown out of the profession for saying this, but honestly, it's not as hard as lawyers try to make it out to be. (Well, not that I've practiced yet.)
posted by livii at 5:05 PM on November 9, 2004

I saw it on Sunday in Principal Skinner's kitchen.
posted by naxosaxur at 6:48 PM on November 9, 2004

They are very bright here [central VT] this evening, sort of green and shimmery, not shooting too high. I dragged my law student boyfriend out for a quick walk around the neighborhood. It's interesting to watch the clouds in front of the Aurora turn completely black when they get really bright.
posted by jessamyn at 6:54 PM on November 9, 2004

Current extent and position of the auroral oval in the northern hemisphere

From the picture right now, Jessamyn, it looks like you're well in the zone.

Spaceweather notes Sunspot 696 has produced two more big explosions: an M8-flare at 1715 UT on Nov. 9th and an X2-flare at 0300 UT on Nov. 10th. At least one CME is heading for Earth as a result of the blasts.

I recommend you all sign up for their email alerts.
posted by y2karl at 7:31 PM on November 9, 2004

I'm not so sure I want email alerts telling me that earth was nearly missed by an asteroid...
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on November 9, 2004

never seen this. then again, i live in arkansas, probably too far south to ever see it to begin with. i guess? been cloudy anyway.
posted by bargle at 7:52 PM on November 9, 2004

me neither bargle, and i'm further north than day, i guess. (i think there's too much light here already for it to show up)
posted by amberglow at 8:17 PM on November 9, 2004

From Aurorachasers FAQ:

What is Pulsating Aurora?

Pulsating aurora is a rare type of aurora. It is very dim, and fast. I liken it to someone dropping paint drops on the atmosphere. Each pulse tends to last 1-2 seconds and is very fast. You tend to see it later on during the night/storm and usually directly overhead after you have dark adapted your eyes for a while.

Pulsating aurora

Different auroras has more on them.

An example of auroral pulsations measured by low-light-level-TV camera at Kalkkoaivi in Northern Finland.

I saw many of those on Sunday--now I know what they are called. It would be impossible to do them justice with any sort of imaging, I think.

Scroll down for Forms of Aurora
posted by y2karl at 8:30 PM on November 9, 2004

i saw it tonite on tennessee highway 26, on the border of north carolina.

it was dull gray, but still beautiful.
posted by y0bhgu0d at 11:48 PM on November 9, 2004

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