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Solar Maximum 2000

The aurora no one else saw 
by AAAA Member
Brenda Culbertson

Read About A Perfect Weekend for Astronomers

I titled this article "The aurora no one else saw" for a special reason: no one else saw it. Most likely someone else saw it, but no one I knew saw it. Here is the story.

One night in November after getting home from an open house in Crane Observatory, I thought I saw something odd in the way the northern sky appeared. Clouds were coming in from other areas of the sky, and it would not be too long until the whole north would be overtaken. I was not sure about it, but I followed my own advice and took a photo. I got one shot off and decided my eyes were playing tricks on me, so I went in.

About a week later I saw something again in the way the northern sky appeared. Again, I set up my camera, and I took a couple of shots. Then I went in and asked Mike, my husband, to come out and take a look. He has a greater ability to distinguish colors than I do, so I was hoping he would say that the whole north was pink. That didnít come out of his mouth, though. What he said was that he couldnít be sure either.

We stood at the end of the drive and looked for quite a while, until I decided there was something definitely going on. I could see a pillar, so I shot a few more photos. Then I called and e-mailed some of my associates to see if they saw anything. Everyone said they went out and looked, but didnít see anything that could be interpreted as aurora. I was getting frustrated because I knew I wasnít going crazy, and I really did see something.

About another week went by before I got my film developed. I was not in too much a hurry to get photos of the sky with no special effects in them. But...when I did get the film processed and printed, both sets of photos showed it. Right there on the photo was aurora.

It sounds like Iím pretty happy about seeing aurora. I usually am, but I have seen many auroral events, and this was not nearly my first. I am just happy I took those shots and got some more cool photos to add to my collection of auroral events. I am also happy that I can still determine if there is something special going on in the sky even when other people "...donít see anything that looks like aurora."

Moral of the story: if you think it might possibly kinda look like aurora, take a picture. It will confirm whether or not you still have the edge.

Photos can be seen on my personal web page (if it is still up and running) at: http://www.geocities.com/ksstargazer/

Brenda Culbertson
stargazr@holtonks.net

Verifying an 
Auroral Display with

CANOPUS Real Time 
Auroral Oval

Hi Brenda, and all other aurora watchers,

Your article mentions the uncertainty of visually verifying a photographically recordable auroral display. If someone thinks that there might be a visible display, but can't be sure because the aurora is faint, washed out by Moonlight, or the sky is somewhat cloudy, it helps to have an instrumental verification of possible auroral activity. I have found the following link to the CANOPUS Real Time Auroral Oval web site to be VERY useful for the purpose of verifying the possibility of a weak auroral display. Since everyone is at a different location, each person will need to determine the strength and position of the oval to find a minimum activity level required to produce a visible display at their location. While this information does require seeing an aurora, the web site content can be used to eliminate false positive detection problems caused by light pollution and haze or thin low altitude stratus clouds. Be aware that there is a ten to fifteen minute delay in the posting of activity changes.

Doug Kniffen 
dk@usmo.com

CANOPUS Real Time Auroral Oval

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