The Northern Lights One of Nature’s Best Kept Secrets
My Hobby • Observing this phenomenon • Then posting photos on my web site • www.prairiejournal.com • Started site in April 21 • Journal or blog • Note: am an observer, not a scientist
Is it easy? • Photos from numerous days on my web site make it look like it’s easy to observe the northern lights at my location • Just north of Bismarck, ND
I’m Here to Tell You It’s Not!!!
Hobby Requires: • Persistence • Persistence • Persistence
Today’s Presentation • How to be successful at viewing the northern lights • There’s no secret formula • Why North Dakota & other Upper Midwest states are some of the best places in world to observe • Some special observations • How to make this a great hobby
Ways to Guarantee Failure • You ask me to call you when the northern lights are going to be out • If I did that to everyone who requested it, that’s all I would get done • You say to me, “I heard the northern lights were fantastic last night. Can I expect to see the same tonight?”
What You Need to be Successful • An addiction to your computer • Daily review of web sites • Then, if conditions look good, go out
Internet Tools • www.spaceweather.com – consider paying small fee to receive phone alerts • www.sec.noaa.gov/ftpdir/forecasts/RSGA/0419RSGA.txt - forecasts • www.sec.noaa.gov/ftpdir/forecasts/ALTS.txt - alerts in the past 24 hours
Internet Tools • www.sec.noaa.gov – current space weather conditions • www.spacew.com – consider paying small fee to receive e-mail watches & warnings / read the forum • http://kate.nic.ualberta.ca:8000/portal/rt_oval/index.html - real time auroral oval
Soak up the Information • If a display is expected & just starting, I have observed enough that I can look at numbers on web sites to know if the northern lights are out at my location • I then call my dad to confirm
My Model (in head) Works for Me Why • I study the internet prior to a display & then after display • I equate the numbers that I see to display
The Model isn’t Precise Why? • It’s not an exact science • Typically you need some combination of below to work in your favor to see the northern lights • A high solar wind speed • High densities • Interplanetary magnetic field – shift to south
Forecasting an Inexact Science • August 16, 2002 – story • Same as weather forecasting 100 years ago? • Why persistence is so important • You must experience failure many times to be successful
Why Lost Sleep is Important • Displays are great • However, the substorms rock • When lights are most active & colorful • Substorms are often short lived • Once you see one, you learn to appreciate the beauty & realize that the time lost watching just a green or white glow is worth it
A Great State (Region) to Observe • You can see displays year round in North Dakota • We have dark skies 365 days per year, unlike Alaska or northern Canada • Our climate is drier, resulting in more nights with clear skies • During major displays, auroral oval shifts south of location – WOW!
Appreciation • My perception - we appreciate northern lights more because displays don’t occur everyday
Special Observations • Astronomy photo of the day
Special Observations • March 30, 2001 – first time see parts of sky turn blood red
Special Observations • May 15, 2005 – northern lights should have been visible at 10:30 p.m. when dark, but took until 1:15 a.m.
Special Observations • June 18, 2003 – one of longest days of the year - northern lights in northeast (brightest part of sky during dawn)
Special Observations • October 28, 2008 – Fastest moving display ever seen – a visual wow!
Special Observations • December 14, 2006 – lots of action that never witnessed before – every display is different – keeps me coming back
Special Observations • April 19, 2002 – Monitored much of night – display occurred just before dawn – saw start of major display
Special Observations • December 24, 2001 – my Christmas lights – photo appeared on www.cnn.com
My Hobby • Share photos via web site • www.prairiejournal.com • Nearly 50,000 page views of December 14, 2006 display • Forwarded e-mails
My Hobby • Opportunities to speak & share stories • Such as today • Opportunities to talk on subject with small group of people from around world • Via internet forums
My Hobby • Opportunities to have photos featured elsewhere • www.cnn.com • New York Times • “Resort” • Online brochure • Use to respond to e-mail questions • Used by North Dakota Tourism
Reference Material • Books • Secrets of the Auroral Borealis, Vol. 29, by Syun-Ichi Akasofu • The Aurora Watcher’s Handbook, by Neil Davis • Aurora: The Mysterious Northern Lights, by Candace Sherk Savage • Online brochure