Auroras Expected Sat. Night / AZ Fireball Update

View to the east showing lots of active rays or pillars. My wide-angle lens was only wide enough to cover 1/3 of the display at a time. Credit: Bob King
Our last big auroral display for the U.S. took place on May 6-7, 2016. That one was a surprise as no exceptional activity had been forecast for that night. Credit: Bob King

Get ready for stormy weather. Zillions of sub-microscopic electrons and protons from a solar coronal hole are expected to impact Earth’s magnetic domain beginning sometime tomorrow afternoon. Space weather forecasters are calling for moderate storm conditions through about 10 p.m. (CDT) Saturday evening followed by a return to minor storm from 10 till 1 a.m. Based on the forecast, it sounds like the best time to look for northern lights would be during late twilight and early evening hours across the northern half of the U.S. and the southern half of Canada (too much daylight in the northern regions!)

This large, Earth-directed coronal hole is expected to put the squeeze on our magnetosphere and possibly fire up northern lights tomorrow night. Photo taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 1, 2016. Credit: NASA
This large, Earth-directed coronal hole is expected to put the squeeze on our magnetosphere and possibly fire up northern lights tomorrow night. Photo taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 1, 2016. Credit: NASA

With no moon in the sky, conditions should be ideal for aurora-watching: pleasant temperatures, three bright planets in view and a fabulous Milky Way in the eastern sky.

A contrail at dusk sort of aligns with June's bright planets: Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Credit: Bob King
A airplane contrail at dusk vaguely aligns with June’s bright planets: Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Credit: Bob King

While we gear up for possible auroras, meteorite hunters are doing the same in hopes of finding meteorites from yesterday’s Arizona fireball. NASA confirmed that the meteoroid measured about 5 feet (1-2 meters) in diameter and weighed tens of tons; it broke apart in the atmosphere while plummeting at some 40,200 miles per hour (64,700 kph). Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center believes that based on Doppler weather radar, it’s likely that fragments made it to the ground.

The northern half of the Milky Way from Cygnus (right) to Cassiopeia cuts across the sky in this photo taken last night. The weird greens and reds are real -- they're caused by molecules slowly giving off light after being excited by the sun's UV light during the daytime. The phenomenon is called airglow. Credit: Bob King
The northern half of the Milky Way from Cygnus (right) to Cassiopeia sugars the sky with stars in this photo taken last night. The weird greens and reds are real — they’re caused by molecules slowly giving off light after being excited by the sun’s UV light during the daytime. The phenomenon is called airglow. Credit: Bob King

When meteorites fall, the smallest fragments drop first and the biggest last, forming a distinctive strewn field along the ground track. The strewn field is thought to lie well east of Phoenix on the Fort Apache Reservation near the town of Cibecue, Arizona. Any would-be hunters will have to obtain permission from individual landowners to seek potential space rocks.


Arizona Meteor from Turkey Spring Observatory, Payson AZ

More news as it develops. Be sure you click on the fantastic video above – just sent to me by reader Bruce Rasch. You really get a sense of blinding light from the blast.

1 Response

  1. Roger rohrbach

    Hey bob…I have an eyewitness account from Payson if you’d like that…tried to send email but it wouldn’t let me. Roger

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