First step is to look toward the north. If you don’t know which direction is north, the Big Dipper may give you a hint which direction the aurora could be. This helps if you are in the city or have buildings or trees in your way. Of course, in much of Alaska, the aurora can be seen in every direction. The weaker or small displays are seen mainly in the north, northeast. Lower latitudes in the northern hemisphere will only see auroras toward the north. Southern hemisphere, look south. So if you cannot see aurora by looking UP, then look NORTH.
Ovation: aka Aurora 30 minute forecast
Ovation shows where the aurora is and the prediction of where is it heading (green areas). The green (depicting aurora) turns yellow and red when the lights are stronger. The thin red line is called the View Line and that is where someone at NOAA drew on an area where the aurora is predicted or seen.
As DISCOVR is now online as of summer 2016, we will dive into those graphs.
Note the graph has instructions right on it. The view line is the approximate location that the aurora can be seen. There is someone drawing this line on the graph each time it updates. This year will be great with almost live data and the view line! Note the time and date on the graph and be sure it is updated. Occasionally, graphs can get stuck or freeze on a time. Next is to note the Kp level. And then simply read the green shades to see if it is near you. Remember these readings are estimates and the aurora is high above the earth. If the green shade is near you, you have a chance. Look north and toward the horizon.
The solar terminator sounds very cool! But it is simply the sun going down and the line of where it is night, dark, or day, light.
The Bz component is part of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) and we want it to tilt south to see more auroras. If it is +0, there is less likely a chance to see auroras. Strong auroras may be seen no matter the Bz, but when the Bz is +0 or higher (with a + sign), the lights may be muted or not seen at all. The lights will show more, and in abundance, when the Bz is in the (-) negative (southward). You may hear someone say “The Bz is southward” or “The Bz is -25”. This is great news for aurora watchers. When you hear that the Bz is north, there is less likely a chance that you will see the lights.
The speed is how fast the solar winds are. The faster they are, the better the aurora displays are!
The Dynamic Pressure is the speed and density of the solar wind. The higher on the dial, the better displays!
NOAA Space Weather shows this graph on the top portion of their webpage.
The letter “G” indicates the strength of the aurora storm, with G1 meaning Kp 5, G2 Kp 6, G3 Kp 7, G4 Kp 8, and G5 Kp 9. On NOAA’s website, you can click on the graph for their explanation and more live info.
Many nights in Alaska the dial will read G 0 but that doesn’t mean there is no aurora. It just means Alaskans will see aurora lower than Kp 5. In Fairbanks, we see auroras at Kp 0. Anchorage can see them at Kp 2, but usually Kp 3 or 4. If you are going solely on Kp levels, you are going to miss out on auroras in Alaska. Kp levels are just a general guideline to let you know if the aurora can be seen in your area. NOAA’s explanation of the G levels.
Here are NOAA Spaceweather’s maps for Kp levels in your area. This is just a general guideline. You may see the lights at a much lower Kp level if the other data is good, such as strong solar winds, or a nice southward Bz. Kp levels can change rapidly, as well as the Bz levels. So if you get one of those Kp alerts, and you are not already in place to see the aurora, you may be too late. Things change rapidly. If you are out, and the data looks great, don’t give up. Calling it quits at midnight, thats way too soon. Plan on staying out all night when the data is good. You may click on your map for a closer look.
Solar Activity Monitor
Normal, Active, or Flares describes how active the sun has been and predicts possible aurora events.
Quiet, Unsettled, or Storm tells you how active the aurora is predicted for that day.
What is the current Kp index? The number can be from 0-9. The higher the number, the larger in size and/or strength the aurora, if all factors are in alignment. The size means that the aurora will go further south. So a high Kp in Fairbanks means we should also look toward the SOUTH whereas typically, we look north. The aurora is seen more south in the northern hemisphere, and more north in the southern hemisphere, if the number is greater. The Kp index is listed on the left side of the graph. The graph lines will change color as the Kp gets higher.
The Wing Kp model uses solar wind data to produce both a 1-hour and a 4-hour advance prediction of the level of geomagnetic activity, as represented by the Kp index, every 15 minutes. The Kp index represents the level of geomagnetic activity on a scale ranging from 0 – 9.
This graph is the Solar Wind Model (shows Coronal Mass Ejection also known as CME, arrival times). When you click on this graph, you can see the CME leaving the sun and approaching earth. The sun is the dot in the middle. Earth is the dot on the right. The colors you see swirling is the solar winds and particles headed toward earth that may produce auroras! Easy? Sure! This is not exact science, it is only the scientists predictions, and sometimes they are wrong. Being wrong or right doesn’t matter to us, if it looks good in any way, we predict auroras will be seen, and we will head on out!
On top of the roof in North Pole, Alaska we present to you the ABN Aurora Cam
the U-zo cam, ie: Au Live. Located at Poker Flat, Chatanika, Alaska. It’s camera is literally right next to the old Salmon Cam, about 1 foot away! They also have a cam on top the building, so check out the website.
AuroraMax is an awesome cam in Yellowknife, NT, Canada. It is pointed straight up in the sky, so on the cam you can see the ground all around the picture.
You can also subscribe to AuroraWebcam.com aurorawebcam.com located on top of Cleary Summit, Alaska.
The Geo Phys Institute has a great cam at Poker Flat, Chatanika, Alaska AllSky Cam
Where can I go to see the aurora from Fairbanks? Click here