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Solar Activity, Northern Lights 60

GehRehmee writes: "Just a few weeks after the sun's peak in its 11 year cycle, two large CME's (Coronal Mass Ejections) occured on the surface of the sun. Now, as the effects of those eruptions reach earth, we're experiencing an excellent season of aurora, or "Northern Lights". Fantastic red aurora are being reported as far south as central California, and amateur and professional astronomers as far south as 40 degrees latitude are on watch. SpaceWeather.com has all the breaking news, as well as details of the CME's which occurred earlier this week. Take a step outside, get some fresh air, and enjoy the sky. You might just be treated to a rare astronomical opportunity." Maybe people can post links to some of the prettier pictures for those of us (cough, cough) who live in light-polluted cities.
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Solar Activity, Northern Lights

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  • I saw the lights a few years back, and my only description is... whoa.

    I suggest anyone that can go see em. It would be cool if we could get some good pics for others to see.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    How does this effect the southern hemisphere? I mean, the universe isn't subject to man's imposed north and south. What about, the 'Southern Lights', the 'Aurora Australis'?

    I really don't know much about aurora's, so anything would be helpful. I'd like to see the lights, but would rather travel a few hundred km's south then around the planet to north America ;-)

    [Enter your default Anonymous Coward .sig here]

  • Same thing in the south. Although finding information for the southern lights will probably be harder since more people in the north can see them. North America, Russia, Europe, Japan. In the south you have Australia and South America which population wise are smaller, so most of the info is on the North. Sucks, yes. Life, yes.


  • by colindiz ( 162137 ) on Saturday March 31, 2001 @03:22AM (#325771)

    For those of you that just want the purdy pictures, have a look at:

    http://www.spaceweather.com/aurora/gallery_20mar01 .html [spaceweather.com] - spaceweather's aurora borealis gallery of photos

    Or alternatively just go direct to a few pictures found in the gallery:

    Enjoy! These things are really a lot more impressive in person, as they dance around the night sky. Picture those early Windows 3.1 screensavers superimposed into space and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. (Please, stay seated, Bill Gates doesn't actually rule the universe, that was just a for-instance.)

  • by loraksus ( 171574 ) on Saturday March 31, 2001 @03:24AM (#325772) Homepage
    I just went outside, in Tigard, Oregon.

    Saw the lights, really neat.

    Kinda sad that I had to be told this by a geek site :)

    In any case, they aren't as impressive as they were in Alaska, I'd bet you it's really interesting up there right now.

    Supposedly you can make a device that will "hear" ELF, or the part of the spectrum the lights are related to - as well as listening to the messages sent to US submarines.
    (sounds really bad, I'm tired)

    Its quite easy to make, as the frequencies are really low, and are about equal to the hearing range of the ear (but are in the EM spectrum as opposed to sound)

    I'll post a link tomorow.

    Being in an area with rolling blackouts would be cool right about now. . .

    Well, gnight. . .
    (falls asleep at keyboa ..........

    I have a shotgun, a shovel and 30 acres behind the barn.

  • is there any chance of us getting an Aurora in the UK??
  • Solar flares DO play a part in electronics malfunctions. Not near the part that some seem to think and that Hollywood has played up, but a part non-the-less.

    Now that computers have minute electronics inside them, I wonder if the flares will affect the computers chips etc.

    Radiation screws with electronics, thank goodness for the Van Allen belts around the Earth that shield us from most of it.

    Cav Pilot's Reference Page [cavalrypilot.com]
  • Not just Central California. We saw vivid crimson curtains at Palomar Observatory tonight, at 33 degrees north latitude. One of the night assistants reports last seeing them here around 1981, and to a much lesser degree.
  • Heh, the troll who mocks the picture of me having fun at USENIX used MSIE to get it! Pot, kettle, schmoo.
  • is there any chance of us getting an Aurora in the UK??

    Please, don't. The Russians got one in 1917 and then followed more than 70 years of communism :-)

    For the lucky ones that never heard of this: a cannon shot from a ship called Aurora started the communist revolution there.

  • The saddest thing about this is that most people won't even know about it until tommorow morning when it will be to late.

    The second saddest thing may be that seattle chose tonight to end its winter drought. Its raining here and so the lights are a no go :(

  • Her name was Tink, IIRC.
  • The pictures are here [spaceweather.com]. Some great desktop wallpaper. Surprisingly, a few look exactly like the wallpaper that comes bundled with Mac OS X. :)
  • You know, back where I lived before (Muonio [muonio.fi], Finland), Northern Lights were not at all an unusual sight. Last time I saw Northern Lights in Rovajärvi back in late 1999. (Should go to Lapland more often...) So, personally this is not a big deal to me. Ooo, more pretty colors.

    But in case you saw this interesting phenomena first time, congrats, now you have got a glimpse of what you've been missing all this time. =)

  • This is the one time that I get annoyed by living closish to the equator (27 degrees south).
    Anyone want to claim the "closest to the equator aurora" award ?
  • Earth's magnetic field is symmetrical, causing the northern lights and southern lights to be "mirror images" of each other.
  • The UK is certainly far enough North. Go out tonight and hope they're still going. (That's what I will do here in the NE USA, where it was snowing last night, even if I had known to look.)
  • It efects them in teh same way, its jsut ppl like to think that its only the 'Nothen lights'
  • Oh this phenomena is such a beautiful sight.

    I'm born in the northern Sweden and I've been used to it from childhood.

    When doing my military service in the northern Sweden this became even more visible to me.

    When doing guard duty, everything was blacked out, no lights where allowed into the night. Our eyes was adapted to the night and the Aurora was soooo intensive in our eyes. It was so unbelievable beautiful that I even looked forward to guard duty during these cold nights of -35C.

    Beeing alone in the night 'guarding' some shit military installation and watching this phenomenoum, I feelt pretty lucky to be one of the few that was on guard these night.

    If you haven't seen this phenomenoum first hand in an environment without disturbing lights I strongly suggest that you take any chance to experience that. It's amazingly beutiful.

  • by Snard ( 61584 )
    I just rented "Frequency" the other night, what an interesting coincidence. Maybe I should crank up the old ham radio ...
  • by Kotetsu ( 135021 ) on Saturday March 31, 2001 @05:47AM (#325788) Homepage
    This site [uleth.ca] includes satellite images of both north and south poles so you can see where the aurora is visible.

  • and can we see the the northern lights again soon? With NYC only 20 miles away, I am a little doubtful.
  • Four solar flares and a pair of powerful magnetic gas clouds spawned in a monster sunspot were headed for Earth on Friday and could affect power systems [sify.com], satellites and some radio transmissions, a top space weather forecaster said.
  • The University of Alaska Geophysical Institute's Aurora page , and a link to the allsky camera [alaska.edu] at the Poker Flats [alaska.edu] rocket range, the only university owned rocket range in the world. Finally, here's a direct link to a mpg [alaska.edu]. Enjoy!

    No preview on this attempt, since the post seemed to get lost during preview on the first try.

  • My local paper said we had until Sunday night, Not that it does me much good, Orlando is not know as northern city.


  • by magi ( 91730 ) on Saturday March 31, 2001 @07:10AM (#325793) Homepage Journal
    These are pictures I took in Finland on 19th. They were published in spaceweather.com last week:

    http://magi.yok.utu.fi/~magi/kuvia/series/display. cgi/aurora.ser?height=768 [yok.utu.fi]

    They were taken with Casio QV-3000EX/Ir digital camera. Unfortunately there's no serial or USB driver for Linux for the camera, so I have to boot to the damned winshit to download the pics (it's actually the only thing I use it for). It would be great if the USB storage driver guys or gPhoto guys would get a driver working at last.

    The first panorama was made with the Casio Panorama program; it works under WINE just fine. Two panoramas were done with GIMP. Other pics were brightened with xv. The despecle filter of GIMP helps a little with noisy pictures, but perhaps not enough.

    I chose Casio QV-3000 especially for its bright lens (F/2.0) and long exposure time (60s), which are important for astrophotography.

  • Few things are exciting about school in 4th year.
  • by phrawzty ( 94423 ) on Saturday March 31, 2001 @07:54AM (#325795) Journal
    When i was a kid, i lived in the Yukon. Watching the lights was a near nightly occurance. To this day i swear you could hear them. I've read all over the place that they're not supposed to have any sort of sound that a human could hear - but if you ask anybody who's lived with them, they'll all tell you that sometimes, if it's just right, you can hear 'em.

    I live further south now (still in Canada -- Winnipeg, to be precise), and we can still see the lights at least once a week, in the winter (if you leave the city).

    If you *really* want to fully experience the lights, there's only one place to go - Churchill, MB, Canada. Why Churchill, you ask? As it turns out, it's almost right under the most active Aurora Borealis area on earth. They get visable activity there over 200 nights a year (as i recall - it's been a few years since i've been up there). Various governments around the world have a joint atmospheric studies lab up there, and there's a rocket-launching pad too. Did i mention polar bears?

    Oh, hey, some links would probably be cool.

    .------------ - - -
    | big bad mr. frosty
    `------------ - - -
  • My favorite site for photos.
    Jan Curtis [alaska.edu]
    Great photos and they update them frequently. We've had some great activity over the last couple of weeks.
  • "Sunspot 9393 covers an area of the solar disk equivalent to the combined surface area of 13 planet Earths."

    from spaceweather.com

    wowza. aren't we tiny.

  • Tuesday there was a sunspot large enough to be observed naked-eye (provided you had a solar filter handy!)
    You may have even been able to project it, I'm not sure. I took a few shots with my 500mm lens (again, through a solar filter)
    but haven't processed the film yet. In addition to the large spot there were a couple dozen smaller spots, all lined up and
    converging on the solar equator. I don't know if the aurora has been very evident around here, but I'll take a look tonight.

  • Yes, the Van Allen belts shield us from certain death, but that's not the important thing: they protect our electronics.
  • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Saturday March 31, 2001 @08:43AM (#325800) Journal
    Maybe people can post links to some of the prettier pictures for those of us (cough, cough) who live in light-polluted cities.

    Sounds like you live in an air-polluted city as well.
  • by Master Bait ( 115103 ) on Saturday March 31, 2001 @08:49AM (#325801) Homepage Journal
    I live nrth of Napa, California. I'm out in the cvountry and the skies were perfect. I saw them at arounf 10 last night. At the peak, about 120 degrees from horizon to horizon. A couple of green streaks made it all the way overhead.

    My girlsfiend said they were very romantioc and later that night I experienced a coronal mass ejection.


  • An EMP pulse from a violent solar storm can disrupt communications and power grids on earth. Not that anyone in California would tell the difference :-)
  • One of the few benefits of living in Alaska... the Aurora, while always beautiful, aren't a major life event. :-)
  • http://sec.noaa.gov/pmap/pmapN.html [noaa.gov]

    If you really want to see whether you should be getting some of this good stuff in your sky tonight.
  • I saw them in Montana - pretty kewl since I was right in the middle of town where the light polution is at its greatest.

    Heard about it right before I saw them when a 6' tall self proclaimed red-headed geek girl at a party said we were supposed to be able to see them.

    Instead of partying hard, this house full of geeks emptied into the street and "oh'd" and "ah'd"...pretty pathetic bunch if you ask me...fridge full of beer and we're out looking at the sky like a bunch o' dorks.

    Oh well, they were beautiful just the same.
  • I've read all over the place that they're not supposed to have any sort of sound that a human could hear

    Actually, they do - it's called the Auroral Whisper. I friend of mine heard it once when he was camping in a remote part of Scotland. The night was very still, there was *spectacular* aurora, and he could hear a sound like the wind hissing through the grass.
    There was a program on the Discovery Channel months ago about researchers in Alaska being able to modulate the sound that aurora makes using a microwave transmitter.

  • Here [joe-who.com] is a picture I took in Whister. There are more to the series, but none of them as good. 10 second exposure, Olympus C-3000 digital camera.

  • Well, I can definately tell that there are solar flares. I might not be able to see the Northern Lights, but my cell phone has certainly become a lot less reliable recently.

  • OK .. just want to understand this .. being "cool"/"interesting" is about having a one-dimensional mentality concerned only with the next self-indulgent, predictable alcohol-induced stupor and lame, predictable alcohol-induced "conversation", whereas being "dorky" involves experiencing a wide range of all the amazing, unusual things that the universe has to offer. Am I understanding this right? I mean, I'm trying to be "cool" and all, but I guess I just don't get it. To recap then, if I spend my entire life thinking and talking only about shoes and beer, and remaining in an ignorant stupor about even the most basic workings of the world I live in and interact with every day, I'll be "cool" then? If I blindly listen to whatever manufacture "music" huge corporations are hyping today, I too can be "cool"? If I wear the brands and logos that huge corporations tell me to wear, I'll be "cool"?

    Basically, as I understand it, if I decide to have a mind of my own, and spend my life experiencing and learning about as much as possible of the world I live in, I'll be "dorky". But if I decide to never think, to do what society tells me to do, to buy what corporations tell me to buy, and spend my life listening to the same lame meaningless repetitive conversations over and over again till I die, I'll be "cool".

    Sounds great. Sign me up.

  • What the heck Yukon did you live in? The majoity of the time in winter in Yukon is overcast, cloudy, totally useless for watching n. lights. I lived there for fourteen (14!) years, and about 8-10 winters, and there was only a single year that the northern lights were out more than a few times the whole winter. Course, that one year they were the most spectacular lights I've seen, heard about, read about, etc. Red, greens, blues, yellows, shooting from one end of the sky to the other literally in less than a second.

    Like a Lovecraftian novel--there are ancient, colossal forces we have no effect on. We are as insignificant as an infinitesmal speck of dust on the figurative heel of some extra-dimensional god.. (yea, too long in the cold..)

    Bet you ten bucks that's what's happening tonight up there. :) And those kind of lights are notoriously difficult to photograph because of the low-light conditions.
  • It is my understanding that aurora doesn't happen in the south. This has to do with the earth's magnetic field. At the north pole the magnetic field is negative (I think) and it causes those positively charged particles from the sun to glow. The opposite magnetic field is at the south pole and it doesn't cause the glow. Of course I may be totally wrong on this.
  • The sun is currently near the maximum of its approximately 11-year cycle, so more auroral displays are likely in coming weeks. If this kind of stuff interests you, I suggest signing up for the e-mail alert from spaceweather.com [spaceweather.com] so you get advance notice of events that are likely to trigger auroral displays.

    Also, you can check out real-time satellite maps showing the extent of the auroral circle (in both N and S hemispheres) at www.sec.noaa.gov [noaa.gov] (note that the site has down -- or overwhelmed -- intermittently over the past day or so). Of course, if you live someplace dark you can just go outside and see for yourself, but if you're in a light-polluted area like me you can at least tell beforehand whether it's worth taking a drive to someplace with better skies. (Which I attempted to do last night, but unfortunately clouds thwarted my valiant attempt :-( )

  • Last night when I was outside playing laser tag of all things, I could see them. This is in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    It gave a strange red glow to the sky...

  • I once had an opportunity to see the Northern Lights from Norway about 80 miles south of the Arctic circle.

    Still, to this day, the single coolest thing I have ever seen. Imagine an all-natural Pink Floyd laser show.
  • My 10-baseT networking was dropping 5% of packets last night. I'm hoping it's the solar flares and NOT a hardware problem.
  • These were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 990... most exposures (at least the good ones) were at least 10 seconds.

    here [harrison.org]

    The 13th and the 24th pictures are pretty good.
  • I'm in New Zealand (about 40deg south), and last night the Auirora Australis lit up the whole sky. Brilliant. Catch it if you can.
  • That's a great series of analogies to read into a blurb about lights in the sky...how poetic/prophetic/bizarre the colors in your world must be...

    enjoy the rest of the show mate

  • Did you even read the post I was replying to? Holy shit, *wake up*.
  • Oh, I see it was your post. I was responding to your own statements about being a bunch of pathetic dorks because you weren't inside drinking beer. I'm surprised you didn't, like, get the connection, you know, having been the person who actually like made that statement. Wow. How do you manage that?

  • Drink a few beers and check out

    Then drink some more beer, and after you decide you need a firewall to protect your network against the sun

    * Origin: All you solar flare are belong to maj.com but all you packet are belong to smoothie!
  • Last night, a couple of my friends said they saw bright red lights in the sky. When the rest of us ran out there, there was still a faint red haze in the sky.

    If the aurora borealis can make it to Arizona, anything is possible.

  • I saw the northern lights last night,
    for the first time in my life. It was
    beautiful. Too bad my camera couldn't
    catch it. But to be in NM to see it was
    a special touch.
  • Here in Vegas the lights probably were not visable. But I took off with some buddies of mine to go out camping to get away from it all. We just spo happened to see 40% of the sky turn bright red. Stood there for hours wondering what it was. Aurora was brought up, but shot down. This far south? Impossable? Guess not. Unbelievable site.

  • compleatly
  • That's the most amazing coincidence! It so happened that me and my buddies rented the same flick and watched it in the wee ours only a couple of ours after the coronal mass eruptions.

    Talk about synchronicity! :-)
  • You are right, particles from a CME will hit the entire earth (typically some 12 hours after a CME) and you will see auroras in both hemispheres. In fact, in this case I saw a beautiful display from Narrabri (30degrees, 18 min South), the first time I have seen such a display so far from either pole! usually, you have to be a lot closer to the poles, people in Alaska sort of latitude up north. But the best views for those who hang out at the poles. I wintered over at the South Pole in 1999 and we were treated to spectacular displays pretty regularly during the long night. It is difficult to photograph these displays as they are a lot fainter than you might think but a friend Robert Schwartz went to great lengths to get pictures that you can check out at alizarin.physics.wisc.edu/rschwarz/life.html Cheers

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer