Auroras possible for northern U.S. overnight April 11-12

Aurora borealis shot on March 21, 2014 from Mt. Cleary outside of Fairbanks, Alaska with an 8mm fisheye lens. The Big Dipper is at top. Details: ISO 1600, 15-second exposure. Credit: John Chumack

While it’s mostly cloudy at my domicile, the sky above yours may be clear. If you live in the northern U.S. and southern Canada, take a look at the northern sky this early morning April 12. There’s a decent chance you might see the aurora borealis.

The Kp index shot up to “5″ or moderate storm Friday evening when the interplanetary magnetic field bundled up in the sun’s wind took a sharp dip southward. This usually allows the sun’s charged particles to enter Earth’s magnetic domain and spiral down into the upper atmosphere to spark auroras.

The auroral oval sags southward around midnight April 12 in this view based on satellite photos indicating some aurora could be visible in the northern U.S. in the early morning hours Saturday April 12. Credit: NOAA

Both the Ovation Auroral oval map and the POES satellite map of the auroral oval – that band of aurora around either pole – show it spreading southward with the visibility line crossing into northern Minn. and North Dakota.


Time lapse aurora near Fairbanks, AK. on March 26, 2014

There’s no guarantee activity will continue through the early morning hours but as of 1 a.m today (April 12) things look promising. We do have a moon tonight which could hamper viewing of faint auroras, but it’s no match for moderate to strong displays.

No matter what, it’s worth a look if you happen to be up late. Beleaguered by clouds like me? You can still enjoy this sweet video of northern lights made by Ohio astrophotographer John Chumack.

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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.

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