OP – The Blog

March 10th, 2011

Big Night Coming…?

Posted By Kevin Schafer

Aurora Borealis, X-Class Solar Flare, 2003

A major “X-class” solar flare exploded on the surface of the sun yesterday, an event which typically results in active and widespread Auroras here on Earth over the next 24-72 hours.  These things are always unpredictable, but weather permitting, the lights should be visible throughout Alaska and possibly as far south as the Canadian border or beyond, possibly peaking tomorrow (Friday) or Saturday night, although with a lot of solar activity this past week, it might be worth looking tonight as well.

We’ve got rain and clouds here in Seattle (what else is new?) so we probably won’t get anything, but if you are anywhere north of about 48 degrees, keep your eye on the night sky. Best viewing time is also hard to predict, but tends to be centered on either side of midnight local time.  Get away from light pollution, look north…and keep your fingers crossed!

For more detailed information have a look at Spaceweather.com or the University of Alaska Aurora Forecast site. You can also post pictures and observations at a special Aurora Forum.

Good luck – and let me know if you see anything.   I came home from Canada a few days too soon, I guess!


Please leave a comment

  1. Melli Says:

    thank you for posting this link, though I am nowhere near a viewing position, but maybe one day….

  2. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Hi Melli, Solar activity is just supposed to increase for the next 2-3 years, so keep an eye on the sun – and maybe plan a winter trip to Alaska sometime! Seeing the aurora is not difficult at all – just have to be in the right place at the right time.!

  3. Rebecca Andrew Says:

    That photograph from 2003 is unearthly!!! We’ve had rain and now snow once again turning back to rain. Even if the lights made it this far South I doubt the sky will be clear enough for viewing. I’ll be checking anyway.

  4. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Hi Rebecca, There was a good aurora show last night, apparently, as far south as the Canadian border (see the Spaceweather link above) But all eyes this morning are turned towards Japan: the earthquake and tsunami.

  5. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Hi All,

    As a measure of how unpredictable auroras can be : early predictions were that the X-class flare on the 9th would cause widespread auroras. It turned out to be less dramatic than expected, but two slightly weaker M-class flares on the day before caused widespread lights last night as far south as Michigan and Minnesota. Have a look at the Spaceweather.com site for more info. Keep an eye on the sky.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Hello Kevin
    Awesome photos you have been posting! Find myself coming back to check em out again and again!
    Thank you and please keep up the excellent work!

  7. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Hi Andrew, Thanks for that – always nice to know someone is out there!

  8. Marie Says:

    Your shots are just beyond words…..I have always wanted to see the lights, but to be able to photograph them would be an honor!! Marie

  9. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Marie. It’s surprisingly easy to see the lights if you can find your way to places within the “Auroral Oval” – Fairbanks is a great location. And the timing is good; the solar activity that sparks the lights is getting better than it has in years! I hope you can make it sometime: it’s a spectacular show.

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