This is a post my nerdy, hobby astronomy self has been sitting on for awhile. I follow the basics of aurora forecasting, but mostly lean on experts commenting in some of the groups I follow. Of course, I can’t content myself with this; I need to know more, especially because the science behind it seems fascinating! So, I came in knowing the basics about what an aurora is, but not much more than that. As it turns out, the solar wind warps the earth’s magnetic field, and more strongly so during solar events such as “flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and coronal holes that are directed towards Earth.” Re-connections ultimately cause aurora phenomena.
What do you see?
“The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.” – Northern Lights Center
I’ve been lucky enough to see all of this, though of course a taste means you always want to see more. I want to see a proton arc (if they’re visible to the naked eye), and colors! There is some debate about what the human eye can detect, but some people report seeing the red. Also, apparently auroras peak every 11 years, the last time being in 2013.
“Usually the best time of night (on clear nights) to watch for auroral displays is local midnight (adjust for differences caused by daylight savings time).” – Geophysical Institute