Since about 4 a.m. this morning, the Kp index, an indicator of geomagnetic activity and aurora borealis, has been pinned at “4″ or just below the minor storm level. The gusty solar wind we talked about yesterday is already rattling its cage, making auroras a possibility for the northern states and Canada tonight. Members of our local Arrowhead Astronomical Society spotted the lights very early this morning from Duluth’s Canal Park. Again, one caveat – the moon is 3/4 full, bright and sets late. Its light may well swamp the aurora’s unless the display is relatively bright.
Last night, patchy cirrus clouds did an excellent job pretending to be noctilucent clouds. They glowed white well into twilight and had a fibrous texture, but there was something not right about their ever-so-faint pink tinge and lack of “waviness” so prevalent in true noctilucents. By 10:45 p.m. (about 1 3/4 hours after sunset) the cirrus were exposed as impostors when I finally noticed the real item much lower in the northern sky.
Have you felt the pull of Venus and Jupiter yet? I finally gave in this morning and arose at dawn for a face-to-face with the two luminaries. They made a most tranquil sight over the big lake around 4 a.m.
Back at home, I looked at each in the telescope. Venus was again a crescent but with its horns pointed west, opposite of how we saw it last in the evening sky. Jupiter fluttered about in turbulent air making it difficult to see much detail. I managed the South Equatorial Belt (SEB) – a dark, easy-to-see stripe – and noticed the odd appearance of the North Equatorial Belt (NEB), which looked pale and unusually wide.
Jupiter’s northern hemisphere has been in meteorological upheaval since the planet’s returned to view in the morning sky.
July begins tomorrow. Mark your calendar for a grand conjunction of the two planets and crescent moon on the morning of the 15th.