Flares and auroras

I have never seen the aurora borealis, but I want to.

I live in Boston, which is far enough north for this not to be a crazy goal, but still, you have to be looking in the right place at the right time (often at an outrageous time of night) to be rewarded with a view of the famous Northern Lights. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could arrange for someone to let me know exactly when to wake up and run outside?

One thing I know about auroras is that they’re associated with solar flares, and so when I read on Space.com that there was some massive solar flares activity, I knew I might have a chance to catch my aurora. Still, when exactly would necessary geomagnetic storm occur on Earth? When you want to know about space weather (like flares and solar wind proton flux density), the place to go is SpaceWeather.com, and these guys actually offer a phone service called SpaceWeatherPhone. They’ll call you and tell you when to wake up, but it’ll cost you.
I’m too cheap to pay someone to wake me up in the middle of the night, but it wasn’t hard to hunt down a free service called Aurora Chasers, which relies on email instead of the phone. I signed up right away.

Now I wait by my Gmail account, painting my fingernails, and waiting for a note from the Northern Lights. But I have my doubts about this free service. The storm is over now, and although I never heard from Aurora Chasers, the folks over at SpaceWeatherPhone have some beautiful pictures to show.

Maybe next time…

2 thoughts on “Flares and auroras”

  1. I grew up in Minneapolis (45 North runs through Minneapolis so it’s about two-and-a-half degrees north of Boston.)

    I’m pretty sure I saw the aurora fairly clearly twice, both in the dead of winter: once on my morning paper route at 5am, and once on the way to an after-orchestra-concert party at about 10pm or so.

    With that morning paper route, I logged an awful lot of way-before-sunrise outside time, and I was generally interested in the stars and such.

    What I’m driving at is that the aurora is (are? is aurora plural?) a pretty rare phenomenon at 45 north, and I’m sure the extra two-and-a-half degrees are a lot more important than they might seem, plus there’s a lot of light pollution in the Boston area. So you may end up with quite a set of painted fingernails/toenails/hair/hands/feet/etc. before Northern Lights coms a-callin’.

    –JMike

  2. That’d be a bummer if I’m too far south to see the aurora borealis. But hey! Maybe the good news is I’m far enough south to see the aurora australis…

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