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Pursuit of the Aurora

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Solar rays Earth's Field
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Part 1: The Scene -The aurora and how to photograph it

The southern Lights Aurora from Timaru New Zealand

Aurora Australis in it's crowing glory from Adair near Timaru, New Zealand, resulting from the most powerful X-ray flare observed from the Sun. It occurred on 4 Nov 2003 and was estimated to be X40-45. - Photo by Geoff Cloake

Part 2: The Shot - Beginnings of a Solar Storm

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Cooling loops of a X17 solar flare on the surface of the sun. In early September 2005, this region (10808) treated us to 10 X-class flares and 24 M-class flares flares in the middle of solar minimum. This was the fourth most active region on record and New Zealand's excitement for the greatest show ever... drowned in days of widespread rain.
Credit - SOHO and TRACE

Part 3: The Shock - Arrival of the Solar Storm

The shock waves are as likely to arrive in our daytime and well goner by by nightfall. This is OK for the other half of the world in darkness! Winter time affords more hours of darkness and increases the probability of seeing the aurora. This is why some people think there are seasons for Aurora. It is thought however, the earth's axis alignment to the sun in spring and autumn enhances the aurora.

Hopefully all the signs stack up and my excitement is eventually backed up by Email reports from SPACE WATCH.

Part 4:The Showdown - Watching for the illusive lights


In reality it may take several hours before the conditions for aurora truly set and now-a-days I leave the trip out till the last moment. Pin pointing the best time to head out is helped by going back to the Space Environment Centre web site and watching the this Plot on the left. Clicking on the GOES hp graph opens a window with better detail. When I see the blue line drop rapidly below normal, it is a good time to get moving as the aurora is most likely to be seen on the upswing. As our night fall coincides close to the bottom of the cycle any major movement below 50nt is enough to get me excited and rushing out the door. The power of the Aorora is shown by the bars at the bottom. Typically the aurora would be visible in Canterbury NZ when the kp is 6+ and overhead when 8-10.

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