Valentine’s Day auroras and a big full moon to boot

Valentine’s Day – and particularly Valentine’s Night – will be special this year. Not only is the moon full, but auroras are in the forecast. Illustration: Bob King

High speed solar blasts that departed the sun on Feb. 11 may combine to deliver a sweet auroral bouquet Friday night. NOAA space weather forecasters predict a 25% chance of minor storms Thursday night, but that rises to 40% Friday night with a 20% chance for a major storm. We’re not talking the high Arctic here – this is the prediction for middle latitudes where we wear less sealskin and more hoodies.

The full moon rises in Leo the Lion not far from its brightest star Regulus Friday night. Click map to find what time the moon rises for your town. Stellarium

Definitely one of the happier auroral forecasts I’ve seen in a while. Friday night’s a big night with lots of Valentine’s fun happening including the Full Snow Moon. Watch for the moon to rise around sunset, cross the south meridian around midnight and set at sunrise the next morning. Might I suggest a walk in the moonlight after dinner with your sweeheart?

While we’d normally be thrilled to have a big moon in the sky, it will put a ding in any auroras that might show. I’ll keep you updated.

The International Space Station will also be making passes of a less passionate sort this week and next. Below are times for the Duluth, Minn. region. Click HERE and HERE for times for your town.

* Tonight Feb. 13 beginning at 7:32 p.m. across the northern sky. Disappears in Earth’s shadow below the North Star a couple minutes later. In binoculars, watch as the ISS fades and turns orange and then red as the sun sets on the ship 250 miles high.
* Fri. Feb. 14 at 6:43 p.m. Bright pass across the north.
* Sat. Feb. 15 at 7:32 p.m. across the north. Disappears below the North Star again.
* Sun. Feb. at 6:43 p.m. Bright pass across the north.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day auroras and a big full moon to boot

    • BC,
      Yeah, it’s bright. Helped me out snowblowing this evening. No need for exterior lighting. Now I’m headed back out for a look at the supernova in M82. Venus is incredible too – at greatest brilliancy this weekend.

  1. Hi Bob,

    I am interested to watch the Northern lights in Duluth area and came to know that tomorrow night the KP index will be between 5 and 6 , which may give a good chance to watch the Aurora. Can you please suggest a location near Duluth where light pollution will be minimal ? I tried last week (Friday) to watch the Aurora near ELY,MN and just got to see very faint white color lights when KP index was between 4 and 5. Hoping this time it will be better luck.

    As I will be driving from Minneapolis , so please suggest me the best location to view the Aurora?

    Thanks & Reagrds,
    Sanjeev.

    • Sanjeev,
      Thanks for writing. Hopefully if we get northern lights tomorrow night, they won’t be drowned out by moonlight. Assuming they happen, you can drive up County 4 (Rice Lake Road) about 25 minutes north of the city to Island Lake. Another spot is at the end of Co. 37 (Jean Duluth Road) or up London Road past the Lester River and make your next right to Brighton Beach also called Kitchigami Park. If they lights become spectacular, you can get a better view by taking the Hwy. 61 freeway up to Ryan Road or Homestead Road and just keep going north. Pull out on a side road where you won’t have much traffic. Good luck!

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