Monday, 24 February 2014
The Search for an Aurora
Part of the problem has been the rotten aurora-watching weather, with clouds firmly across the sky whenever there's been an alert - which there was again last night. The other is that we are very dependent on the aurora forecasting sites. The one above is the record over the last 24 hours from Aurorawatch, based at the University of Lancaster. At one time they kept a magnetometer in Scotland, which gave predictions which were fairly accurate for us, but since they moved their activities to Lancaster their predictions have been less useful.
Cumbernauld Weather, working with Aurorawatch, has developed a magnetometer and has put its readings on line. The above display shows their readings for the same period and, as can be seen, they're very different. This makes one realise that the aurora is a very localised phenomenon, and that one's chances of seeing it are based on a willingness, on any clear night, to go out frequently and have a look.
To help to overcome the problem, we've set up a local group who are alerted when there's a warning. Our most valuable members are those who live on the north coast, who have the best chance of seeing the northern lights.
here. Last night it showed a '4', with the green line, the southern limit of visible aurora activity, well down over northern Scotland.
There's plenty of choice of sites. Another interesting one is TESIS, whose data is based on instruments developed by the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, and launched aboard the Russian spacecraft CORONAS-PHOTON in January 30, 2009. Their results for the last 24 hours are shown above.
We're running out of time. With the day lengthening, with auroras very difficult to see during the short summer nights, and with sunspot activity falling away by next winter, it's possibly a case of now or never.