Aurora alert for tonight

By Phil Plait | September 26, 2011 3:11 pm

I just got word from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center that Saturday’s solar activity blew a wave of subatomic particles from the Sun that is reaching the Earth now. They rated this as a strong G3 event, which means it’s not dangerous per se but should spark aurorae at high latitudes.

If you live at very north or very south (like southern Argentina, Australia, and so on) latitudes, you should get out after dark and take a look. You can also check the SWPC’s aurora map to check your odds of seeing anything. Here’s the map for the northern hemisphere as of today at 21:00 UT (5:00 p.m. Eastern US time):

The fringes reach as far south as where I am in Colorado, so if it clears up later I’ll take a look. And check back at the SWPC page; I expect the effects here on Earth will get stronger for a while before dying off. Again, we’re in no danger here, but hopefully we’ll get a nice light show out of this.

Related posts:

Awesome X2-class solar flare caught by SDO
NASA’s guide to solar flares
Southern lights greet ISS and Atlantis

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Space

Comments (32)

  1. Jake

    You can follow @Aurora_Alerts on twitter for real-ish-time Aurora announcements. This morning I saw the highest reading since I’ve been following them. 8.33 Kp. Neat stuff for us up here in the Great White North.

    Shame the weather in Juneau seldom cooperates.

  2. Thopter

    I’m in the mid-lats of Colorado, almost in Kansas. I hope I’ll be able to see something tonight.

  3. Stuart Greig

    60 degrees north in Norway and the sky is ablaze!
    Dark sky location and the milky way is almost blotted out.
    Covering from the northern horizon up way past the zenith to about 60 degrees above the southern horizon. A good 2/3 of the sky is rippling!
    Colours are very pale, mostly whites and greys.
    Get outside when darkness reaches you!!

  4. And I am traveling right now which is good since I live in Arizona but am now in Maine for the week!

  5. Chris

    I’m in WI and it’s cloudy and rainy. Blahh.

  6. Bette Noir

    And here I was enjoying the first storm of winter in northern Oregon. Maybe we’ll get a clear patch tonight.

  7. Chris P

    I went out earlier, looked up and saw an iridium flare. thought “clear sky! I’ll get my ‘scope out later when Jupiter’s a bit higher”. Went out later and it’s completely overcast :(

  8. Slowly but Surly

    How bad would it be for the planet for an aurora to be visible from the Sacramento, CA area? I looked at the map and thought ‘foiled again… maybe that’s a good thing?”

  9. Doesn’t look like North America is going to get a lot but I’ll keep my fingers crossed here in Edmonton. Our local Aurora Watch site doesn’t have any alerts for tonight but we have had some amazing shows here over the last few weeks.

  10. That’s the sad thing about living in the tripics.

  11. Michael Suttkus, II

    Somebody call me when Florida is even on the map, okay? : – )

  12. If Florida sees aurora then Canada is likely fried. :)

  13. Chris

    Have a look here
    Right now we are at a Kp 8, so assuming no clouds or light pollution, a lot of people are in store for a nice show tonight.

  14. I can see my house from there….

  15. Wzrd1

    Paul, the aurora has been visible in Mexico in the past, Canada simply enjoyed the light show.
    Slightly overcast here and still a bit bright out to see if it’s visible.
    But, a truism here is, if there is celestial events ongoing, it MUST be cloudy here.

  16. Michael Suttkus, II

    The big 1859 solar storm created auroras that were visible from Cuba!

    If something similar happens today, it will probably knock out all our wireless computer connections, but at least we’ll have pretty skies to watch! : – )

  17. RwFlynn

    Awww, I’m roughly 75 – 100 miles outside the circle. I’ll look anyways, though with lowered expectations.

  18. VinceRN

    Cool. At least now I know what I’m missing with all the clouds and rain in the way.

  19. Chris

    Looks like the best might be over. Kp down to 4. Proton density down below 1/cm^3. Keep looking in case it picks up, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see much.

  20. Wzrd1

    VinceRN, got some liquid aurora, huh? ūüėČ
    We have some moderate cirrus clouds here, obscuring anything near the northern skies. :(

  21. shifty

    cant see anything in southern pa lame

  22. Saw it, got some pics. Unfortunately, forgot to pack the cable to download from the camera. Will borrow one tomorrow.

  23. Wzrd1

    Hale-bopp, from where? SE PA didn’t get to see anything other than clouds. :(
    Shifty, southern PA isn’t a lot of help, as the state IS a bit large. Unless you’re meaning Phoenix, Arizona… :/

    BTW, for those wondering about liquid aurora, think of liquid sunshine. An old infantry, SF, probably US Marine and even money SEAL term for rain…

  24. The Auroras were spectacular at 59N 10E last night. I just caught the first eruption at 19UTC and when the second spark i activity hit at about 21UTC 26.09.2011 you could clearly see the red part of the northern lights overhead. I have made a timelapse which can be seen here:

  25. jearley

    Nothing right now in Southern Oregon, on the edge of the zone. Beautiful sky though, for once.

  26. Wzrd1: Way to ruin my fun with facts! ūüėČ

    Cloudy here in Edmonton so we got nothin’.

  27. The northern lights were seen last night as far south as Michigan, New York, South Dakota and Maine in the United States, and also from Europe and New Zealand. It was the strongest geomagnetic storm since October 2003.
    A HD video of what the northern lights look like during a strong geomagnetic storm as we had yesterday can be seen at

  28. Okay, got the pics downloaded and posted on my blog. They were taken from Acadia National Park in Maine.

  29. CR

    Went out last night, and saw lots and lots of beautiful clouds.

    Sigh. (I see a new entry about Earth’s rotation and its effects on weather patterns, with a neat pic that shows the cloud ‘hook’ centered right over my area. Of course! Sigh, again…)

    @28: I believe that’s the aurora I photographed with my old film camera from south central Wisconsin. For some shots, I just laid the camera lens-skyward on the road and held the shutter open for about 30 seconds… enough to have minimal streaking from the stars, but still show the vibrant green aurora that was directly overhead. (There were also hints of yellow and orange-ish, but those were closer to my horizon, and the pics I took of that didn’t quite turn out as well.)

  30. Daniel J. Andrews

    Saw it on our drive back from Nakina, Ontario. It started as a greenish-blue rainbow across the north sky, slowly turned to curtains, and then at the peak, you could actually see some of the red in the bottom of one of the curtains. I gave myself a sore neck rubbernecking at the aurora while trying to keep an eye open for dark moose on a dark highway. Score was 1 aurora, 1 moose, 1 lynx, 0 collisions.


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