Keep Your Eyes Peeled For Auroras Tonight April 23-24

It's here! A huge "tongue" of bright aurora speared by faint rays covered the northeastern sky around 10:30 p.m. Monday night seen from the Lester River in Duluth, Minn. As of midnight Mon-Tues. the aurora was still visible through mostly cloudy skies. Photo: Bob King

The effects of an earlier coronal mass ejection from the sun arrived today, jazzing up Earth’s magnetic field and setting the stage for possible northern lights tonight. The Kp index has been at “5” since this afternoon meaning it’s time once again to put on your tin hats and head out for a look. Observers in the northern U.S. have the best chance of seeing the aurora’s green glow. Find a place with a clear, dark view of the northern sky for the best view.

A coronal mass ejection from July 2002. Solar flares send billows of solar wind particles into space, some of which arrives at Earth and excites the upper atmosphere to glow with auroras. Credit: NASA

You can keep up on activity by clicking the Kp link above and checking the extent of the aurora at the Ovation Auroral Forecast site. Auroras are typically – but not always – most active around midnight to 1 a.m.  Good luck and let us know if you spot any.

While you’re out, you can also catch the last set of space station passes for the area this week. We’ll soon enter a short hiatus of daylight-only passes before the station returns to the morning sky. The times below are for the Duluth, Minn. region. For times for your town, please log in to Heavens Above or plunk your zip code into Spaceweather’s Satellite Flyby page.

The station first appears in the western sky and travels toward the east. If you see it fade midway through a pass, it’s moving into Earth’s shadow and blocked from sunlight.

Lisa Warren of Reno photographed the daylight fireball Sunday morning (April 22) while she and her husband, Rick, were walking their dogs north of the city. Credit and copyright: Lisa Warren

I also updated today’s earlier blog about the California-Nevada daylight fireball and included a link to a set of spectacular photos taken by Lisa Warren of Reno, one of which is featured above. Here’s the link again

Space station passes this week:

* Tonight Monday April 23 starting at 8:57 p.m. and passing almost overhead several minutes later. Very bright!
*  Tuesday April 24 at 9:36 p.m. when it’s very close to the crescent moon in the west. Moves across the southern sky before fading in the southeast.
* Wednesday April 25 at 8:40 p.m. Another brilliant overhead pass
* Thursday April 26 at 9:20 p.m. Cruises across the southwestern sky
* Saturday April 28 at 9:03 p.m. Low pass across the southwest

4 Responses

  1. Mike Thiele

    WOW! Nothing like that auroral display here Bob. Very diffuse and muted. Lots of faint waves but very faint. You know me. Please share your photos details sir? Thanks. Hope to have the opportunity to meet some day Bob. Be happy to buy! Take care.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Mike,
      I wish I could have spent more time in a dark sky shooting pix of the aurora last night. I was out late photographing smelting along Lester River and Park Point so always near lights. The aurora was bright, large, intense but diffuse. The few rays I saw were broad and soft-edged. The camera helped bring out more detail. The photo was taken at f/2.8, ISO 800 and 20-second exposure.

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