The north smoldered with a familiar glow last night. A restrained aurora lit up the bottom five degrees of sky a pale lime. Hidden to the eye but revealed in a time exposure, a band of pink haze arched above the visible display.
Fall and spring are usually the best times for northern lights. The orientation of Earth’s magnetic field to the blobs of magnetized material streaming from the sun make it more likely the two will connect. When they do, solar electrons and protons stream straight into our planet’s magnetic bubble and spark auroras in the upper atmosphere. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Read more about seasonal auroras HERE.
Tonight the 3-day-old crescent moon should be easily visible in the southwestern sky shortly after sunset. If you’d like a fun challenge, see if you can find Mars and Saturn nearby. I doubt most of us will spy them with the naked eye, but binoculars should do the job. Mars will be easier because it’s higher up in a darker sky. Saturn? Could be tricky.
If you’re an early morning person, you can catch plenty of passes of the International Space Station (ISS) this week. The times below are for the Duluth, Minn. region. For times for your town, type in your zip code on Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys page or log in to Heavens Above. The ISS travels from west to east and looks like a brilliant yellow star.
* Wednesday Sept. 19 starting at 5:13 a.m. Brilliant high pass across the top of Orion
* Thursday Sept. 20 at 6 a.m. Another bright one but this time across the northern sky
* Friday Sept. 21 at 5:13 a.m. Appears out of Earth’s shadow high in the west and then crosses the top of the sky
* Saturday Sept. 22 (First day of fall) at 6 a.m. in the northern sky
* Sunday Sept. 23 at 5:13 a.m. in the northern sky