Last night I watched the Northern Lights down on the shores of Lake Superior. The display was fantastic, and I even took photographs of the Aurora Borealis, but how did I even know it was worth staying up late and then spending 2+ hours down at Brighton Beach watching dancing lights fill the heavens till after 1 am in the morning??
(Although most of these post is still very relevant,. there is now even a better app for monitoring the Northern Lights ... see my post of November 15, 2013)
Given I love to sleep, enter some apps and bookmarked web pages which let me know IN ADVANCE whether I should be an insomniac for a given night! This post actually updated my entry from last Fall when I blogged about the same topic. I've actually changed my tune in terms of what I have installed on my Google Nexus 10 due to six months of additional testing. All of these services are free, but an investment of a few dollars will optimize your experience.
Here is the short list of what I use, followed by a more in depth explanation including screenshots and photos taken last night around 12:45 am:
- AuroraNotifier - This app is my primary choice for my Nexus 10. One does not need the premium version. It does a great job of giving updates on short term viewing prospects (one hour forecast), and has a customizable alert which may be configured by the Kp index.
- Web Sites with a Home Screen Bookmark on my Tablet:
- Aurora Forecast from the University of Alaska - A wealth of data may be found upon the Alaska site including long term forecasts, short term forecasts, and free email alerts. Visit the University of Alaska web site and out fill out their brief form. You will then receive email alerts whenever the Kp index is greater than a "4"
- Ovation Aurora from the NOAA (National Weather Service) - See screenshot. This excellent map is color coded and lets me know the probabilty for viewing in my region
Please note I have removed Aurora Forecast (iOS and Android) from my most recommended list. I does a decent job of providing the long range forecast (1 to 7 days), but the short term forecast (next hour) is poor. However, I still keep it installed for a heads up it often gives me a number of days prior to an expected geomagnetic storm.
Here are my screenshots with accompanying explanations taken during last nights' geomagnetic storm and my Northern Lights viewing down on the shores of Lake Superior. I've include two photos that I took around 12:30 am (ISO: 200, Aperture: 2.7, Exposure: 64 seconds).
Click upon any annotated screenshot or photo to view at full size!
Longer Term Northern Lights Forecast (1 to 7 days)
University of Alaska
Short Term Northern Lights Forecast (1 hour)
University of Alaska
Ovation Aurora Forecast (1 to 4 hours)
National Weather Service
AuroraNotifier Android App (and alerts)
Kp Northern Lights Chart
NOAA and the Planetary K Index
This chart will help you understand how a Kp number relates to viewing on the ground. Please note the Kp index gives the reading required for Northern Lights directly overhead. Depending upon atnosperic conditions, people to the south may be able to see the Aurora nearer the horizon.
And finally two photos I took last night. If you are interested in photographing the Northern Lights I highly recommend reading these two web pages:
- How to Photograph the Northern Lights (AlaskaPhotoGraphics.Com)
- Shooting the Aurora Borealis (Dick Hutchinson)
I'm still learning night time photography, which involved hacking my Canon camera with CHDK, but that's a whole different topic! (Creating a Dual Boot OS Digital Camera)