Space weather forecasters expected auroras tonight, but they arrived a night early and put on a great show till dawn. I noticed a slight glow low in the northern sky around 9:30, so I packed up the telescope and drove to a dark spot. At 10 o’clock, the crescent moon was still bright in the west and the aurora had gone faint.
That changed around 10:45. A low arc slung across the northern sky, fattened, brightened and eventually broke apart into parallel rays that resembled a nice set of BBQ ribs but green of course! Between 11 and midnight, it was non-stop activity with short lulls between bright break outs of beams and rayed arcs. As far as looking through the telescope. Forget about it. The magnetic storm had me in its grip.
It was interesting that the display played out until well after midnight quite low in the northern sky, so if you didn’t have a decent view down to the horizon, you might have missed the best parts of the show. After 1 a.m., it settled down for a bit and then began to climb again. By 2, when I finally had to get to bed, I could see forms beyond the zenith in the southern sky.
There’s a possibility for more northern lights tonight though they make lack the intensity of this morning. A co-rotating interactive region (CIR) sparked the sudden activity. CIRs are compression regions between a slow-flowing solar wind and a fast one. Material can pile up in a CIR, creating a shock wave upon its arrival at Earth. The reverberations led to a G2 (moderate) geomagnetic storm with the Kp index at 6 for about six hours. Keep a look toward the north this evening and check every now and again till midnight. While the moon is getting thicker and brighter, it won’t overpower a display at this point.