Now that was a well forecast storm! What storm you say? It didn’t rain at my house?
This was a “Geomagnetic Storm” that produced vivid northern lights from Europe to the USA, including Minnesota.
The details from spaceweather.com.
“SUBSIDING STORM: A severe geomagnetic storm (Kp=7-8) that began yesterday when a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field is subsiding. At the peak of the disturbance, auroras were sighted around both poles and in more than five US states including Michigan, New York, South Dakota, Maine, and Minnesota:”
Clouds limited viewing in the metro, but northern lights danced above Grand Portage.
Photographer: Travis Novitsky
Sep. 26, 2011
Grand Portage, MN, USA
“The evening started off very good in Northeast Minnesota, with minimal cloud cover and high Aurora activity. Almost as soon as it was dark we were seeing vertical columns of light extending high into the sky, with the ever-present green color, but also lots of red color! After only about a half hour, however, the dark clouds moved in and soon the entire sky was blocked off by clouds, obscuring our view of the lights. It was a brief, yet spectacular window of activity!”
Colors range from green to red:
So why do auroras change colors? It turns out different charged particles that bombard earth excite different atoms in the upper atmosphere producing the range of colors.
A good explanation from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“The Aurora Borealis is most often seen in a striking green color, but it also occasionally shows off its many colors ranging from red to pink, blue to purple, dark to light. The reason that the aurora is seen in so many colors is that our atmosphere is made up of many different compounds like Oxygen and Nitrogen. When the charged particles that come from the sun hit the atoms and molecules of the Earth’s atmosphere, they excite those atoms, giving off light. Different atoms give off different colors of the spectrum when they are excited. A familiar example is the Neon lights that we see on many business signs in our modern world. The Neon lights contain the gas Neon. These lights have electricity run through them to excite the Neon gas. When the Neon is excited, it gives off a brilliant red-orange color. The Neon lights are the same idea as the aurora, only on a lot smaller scale.”
Forecast: 40% chance of more solar storms this week.
There is a 40% chance that massive sunspot 1302 will unleash more X-Class flares earthward this week. The huge sunspot is facing directly earthward now, so anything it blasts out will race directly at earth.
Keep an eye out for more possible aurora alerts this week!
Update Monday night:
Geomagnetic Storm and Aurora in progress:
Watch the Aurora live from Yellowknife N.T. Canada here.
Photographer: Randy Halverson
Sep. 26, 2011
Kennebec, South Dakota, USA
I was set up to do a Milky Way timelapse, when I looked over my shoulder, and saw the Aurora.
(Click images to enlarge: They’re really good when veiwed bigger!)
Photos courtesy spaceweather.com
Sep. 26, 2011
This is from the sep 26th (CME) impact In the Yukon.A long night of waiting but the activity picked up. had a good time waiting with a good friend and fellow Photographer Joseph Bradley
Photographer: Ole Ambrosiussen
Sep. 26, 2011
Hvinningdal, Silkeborg, Denmark
Have been waiting so long to capture the Aurora. Nikon D90, ISO 2000, f3.5, 20 sec
Update 4pm Monday:
Powerful “X-Class solar flares” over the weekend sent blasts solar of energy earthward.
A glancing but powerful Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) hit earth Monday. The best chances for northern lights may be on the “night side” of earth at impact meaning Europe and Asia…but there is a chance some effects may linger into Canada the far northern USA overnight Monday onto Tuesday.
Above: A new NOAA test product that predicts the Auroral Oval position based on solar wind observations. THIS IS AN EXPERIMENTAL PRODUCT IN TEST PHASE. You can see Earth’s response to the CME impact. As the CME effects continue, G1-Geomagnetic Storming (on the NOAA scales) is expected.
The details from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center:
“Top News of the Day: 1900Z September 26, 2011 – The fast Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that erupted from NOAA Active Region 1302 arrived this morning at 1237Z (8:37am Eastern Time). It has kicked off moderate (G2) geomagnetic storms for low latitudes, but high latitudes are seeing severe (G4) levels of activity. Aurora watchers in Asia and Europe are most favorably positioned for this event, though it may persist long enough for viewers in North America. The bulk of the CME missed the Earth, meaning the storm intensity and duration are less than what they would have been in the case of a direct hit.”
You can see how the wave hit earth from images at the NOAA NWS Space Weather Prediction Center facebook page.
You can see the shock at Boulder in the attached Magnetometer plot. Earth’s magnetic field was very calm until the CME arrived, then the field began to fluctuate. These fluctuations can induce current in power lines and pipelines, and even move the Auroral Oval to lower latitudes.
The Estimated 3-hour Planetary Kp-index is derived at the U.S. Air Force Space Forecast Center using data from ground-based magnetometers: Meanook, Canada; Sitka, Alaska; Ottawa, Canada; Saint Johns, Canada; Newport, Washington; Fredericksburg, Virginia; Boulder, Colorado; Hartland, UK; and Fresno, California. These data are made available through the cooperation of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) and the US Geological Survey.
Where to look for Northern Lights:
If you’re out in the wee hours or up before the dawn this week and skies are clear, you may want to check for northern lights.The best place to view is generally away from city lights in a dark sky with a good view to the north.
The best place to view Monday night will be north and west of the metro, while southeast Minnesota remains under cloud cover from the pesky cut-off low over Illinois.
Sunspot 1302 is active, and may trigger more Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s) this week.
More details from spaceweather.com.
“STRONG SOLAR ACTIVITY: Having already unleashed two X-flares since Sept. 22nd, sunspot AR1302 appears ready for more. The active region has a complex “beta-gamma-delta” magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M- and X-class eruptions. Flares from AR1302 will become increasingly geoeffective as the sunspot turns toward Earth in the days ahead.”
Happy sky wathching!