Heads up – minor auroras out tonight March 28-29

An arc of northern lights materialized low in the northern sky shortly before 10 p.m. Central time tonight March 28. Photo: Bob King

Just got back from photographing Comet PANSTARRS and watching the moonrise. Shortly before 10 p.m. a dim auroral arc fanned across the northern sky about 10 degrees above the horizon. There were a few rays, too.

I was a little surprised because tonight’s activity wasn’t in the space weather forecast. I’m guessing it’s spillover from yesterday’s aurora caused by fluctuating speeds in the gust of particles from the sun called the solar wind. As far as I could tell, the aurora never showed here last night. Sky watchers at higher latitudes were more fortunate; a nice display graced skies over Finland, Norway and Alaska even in moonlight.

Photo taken about 10 minutes after the top image. A few rays joined the scene and the arc expanded a little further south and higher into the sky. Photo: Bob King

When the moon rose higher, the sky brightened and the lights faded back. Looking at the auroral oval, it’s expanding toward the northern U.S. as I write this around 11 p.m. Might want to take a look if it’s clear in case things take a turn for the brighter. The forecast calls for generally “quiet” conditions after tonight.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

12 thoughts on “Heads up – minor auroras out tonight March 28-29

    • Brian,
      I bet you did see it. I noticed the aurora not long after finishing up shooting PANSTARRS myself. Once the moon got up a few degrees however, you had to pay attention to see it.

  1. How is the comet faring? I have not seen results about it, lately probably due to moonlight. After 3 nights of seeing it, it again has been cloudy in the north west for the last week.

    • Edward,
      I saw it last night. The tail is definitely still around 2.5 degrees. The head is bright but has faded significantly. I estimated it at about 3.6 magnitude. One good thing – the comet’s up for a long time for northern observers. I watched until past 9:30 p.m.

  2. I was driving home from work about 2230 hrs last night, and saw the aurora. At first I thought it was just a reflection off my car window, but when I pulled off the freeway heading to Blackhoof I could see them a little more distinctly despite the brightness of the full moon. What a beautiful night.

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