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Ronnie last won the day on March 21

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  1. Well, it came and went; the second solar storm in the month of October. For those of us in Alaska, both were, for some, a disappointment due to cloud cover. The first solar storm was visible from Fairbanks. The photo to the left was taken by Chad Kotter of Kotter Photography near Liverpool, Alaska, on the night of October 12, 2021, and into the early hours of October 13, 2021. The show for the northern part of Alaska was nothing short of amazing, while those of us near Anchorage suffered under Mother Nature's continuous spewing of clouds and precipitation across the area. I had gone out to Glennallen, Alaska, the night of October 11, 2021, with Chad and another aurora aficionado, Chris Smith, to try capturing the lights in Glennallen, as the cloud forecast showed clear skies for the night. We decided to move north towards Tok and, to our unfortunate luck, ran into clouds. Thus, we missed the biggest part of that night. Chad continued north towards Fairbanks while Chris and I had to turn back south. I wanted to stay out but, unfortunately, had a medical appointment that Monday morning I had to get back for. Needless to say, I kick myself for not being able to stay on the "chase" for what proved to be a spectacular night for aurora activity. I went out last night, back to Glennallen, on the hopes of capturing our second solar storm of the month on timelapse. I, again, went out on the forecast being favorable for the area's cloud coverage and I was n to disappointed. When I arrived in Glennallen, the skies were full of stars. They came and went as I sat there for a few hours, becoming diffuse behind thin high clouds moving through the area. But, I sat and waited, hoping for Lady Aurora to bless me with her presence. Around midnight, I started to see the faint, gray glow on the horizon. The auroral arc was making its debut in the night sky and I checked the solar wind data hoping for something grand. Instead, I found mediocre data, at best, and waited it out as long as I could. Once again, I had to head back to get ready for things happening on Sunday. As luck would have it, 15 minutes after I turned back, the data started indicating the solar storm would be at the magnetosphere at approximately 2:06am Alaska Daylight Time. I thought about stopping, but chose to press on; and, I am glad I did. I ran into a snowstorm that I fought for over two hours. Some areas had received close to three inches of snow while I sat in Glennallen and it was coming down; hard at times. I am so ready to get out and see Lady Aurora in all of her beauty like the picture to the right from Twitter user Weatherby.eth. Most of Alaska suffered my same fate, as clouds dominated the skies once again. A sad turn of events for many, I am sure. The solar cycle is still relatively young; cycle 25 started in December of 2019. We have about five to seven years of increasing solar activity until it starts to wane. With the events of October 2021 now in the books, we can only hope that this is a sign of the great things to come as solar cycle 25 continues to press on. We should see plenty of activity on the Sun and that will lead to increased chances of solar flares (the solar storm this weekend was from an X1 flare) and more storming affecting the Earth's magnetic field to give us plenty of opportunities to see Lady Aurora. I feel spoiled from last year's season and I am so ready to see my first big event of the 2021-22 aurora season!
  2. I am currently working on getting a head start to Version 5! A big addition to Version 5 is going to be a subscription option, as I talked about in my previous forum post. Along with this addition, several current items will move to subscribers only and a new feature will come online: custom locations! I had not thought about doing custom locations in the app, but I received feedback from a user who asked why this was not possible. From my perspective, in developing the app, I was less concerned with the glitz and glamor of being able to see where the best place to view the norther lights was or dragging around to see what conditions were in other locations because this app is designed to provide information for your current location. However, in looking at it, I can see where the ability to move around within a few hours drive could be beneficial. But, it will put a strain on the limited resources I have. So, to offset that risk, it will be part of the subscription service. Here is a preview:
  3. I have added a subscription feature to the website. You can subscribe here if you would like. The idea, in the long-term outlook, is to have the website and app subscriptions tied together. It's still in the works, but would require some work on my part to sync everything up. It will get there eventually! Subscribing to the website allows for storage of photos in the gallery and opens up access to planned members only forums. Have suggestions? Let me know what you would like to see if you were a subscriber! I am open to just about anything to make this a community worth being a part of!
  4. Just to get out ahead of this early, plans are in the works for a subscription-based version of the app. This will likely come with the release of Version 5 at a date to be determined. Testing will have to be accomplished before it is released to the general public, so we are still several weeks to a few months away from seeing anything go live. It still has yet to be determined what would be a subscription feature in the app. At a minimum, the free version will show the solar wind data, OVATION data, reports, guide, and about information. The thought is to move all features reliant on APIs and paid services to the subscription model to offset the costs associated with them and help maintain the app. More information will be shared as development continues, but please be aware of this change coming on the horizon. What do you think? Leave some comments!
  5. The app hit a small milestone on October 12: 1,000 installs! The traffic in the app has quadrupled from earlier this year and, as such, there was a need to increase the performance of the server to handle traffic. The end result? A much snappier performance in the app itself. As the app came back online, I noticed it was loading pages much faster. The CPU load dropped from 25-30% to 2-3%, which means it should run much smoother. I am excited for this change! While the cost will triple for the server, the end result is the ability to serve information to more users faster. And, with the changes made, the app should be able to handle a significant amount of traffic in the years ahead. Yes, years. The Amazing Aurora app is not going away any time soon! 😉
  6. Well, we were able to get a little sunshine today as a weak ridge of high pressure moved through the area. Unfortunately, the next weather system is hot on its heels and will bring clouds and rain back to Alaska through this week. Indications are right now that we may see some improvement in conditions Thursday evening and into Friday (Sep 10th), which may give us a shot to see some light activity over the weekend. If you're like me, you're ready for these clouds and all of the rain to move out and give us some clear skies! We will get them...eventually!
  7. For those of us in Alaska, this holiday weekend has been a bummer of sorts...at least, for those of us itching for the chance to see Lady Aurora. The clouds and rain will continue to stick around through the weekend with conditions beginning to improve around mid-day on Monday (Sep 6). Solar activity is projected to pick up a little bit around then too, with a stream of solar material projected to begin heading our way. There may be a chance to see some activity in the early morning hours of Tuesday, but it does not look hopeful for much the rest of the week as clouds and rain return with the next weather system and persist through next weekend. As always, the weather models can be wrong, so it is good to keep an eye on the forecast for any changes.
  8. I don't know how many of you are like me: ready for the night! Here in the Anchorage area, we are starting to get longer nights, albeit slowly, but it is happening! The past couple of weeks have had us socked in with clouds and rain, so tonight is potentially going to be a long one. We have a couple of chances this week for good auroral activity! Image Source: SWPC The above image is from the Space Weather Prediction Center's WSA-Enlil model depiction. As you can see, midnight Alaska Daylight Time shows the first coronal mass ejection (CME) impacting Earth; a great time for us to see this happening since it will be dark! You can see the second CME behind it which is projected to impact us around nearly the same time on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. Unfortunately for those of is in/around Anchorage, clouds look to be a factor for the arrival of the second CME. Tonight looks to be our best shot to start the season off great! Again, this is a model depiction, so it must be taken with a grain of salt. However, the data observed so far today appears to be in line with what the WSA-Enlil product is showing. If it holds true, we should be in for a treat tonight! 😄
  9. The offseason brought along some much-needed rest and relaxation. It also brought the need to make some changes to the app and make it...better! While the design is much the same as the previous three versions, the navigation tab needed an overhaul. The screen transitions with the old tab were clunky and caused speed issues while using the app. You should notice much more responsiveness when changing screens now! The move to the latest version also brought about a change in how the app provides insight to the user. Before, the potential to see aurora was designed and tested here in the Anchorage area; specifically, tailored toward 61N latitude. The goal of the app is to be global; meaning, it has to work well everywhere. Thus, the algorithm was completely revamped to account for this. Furthermore, seeing activity with varying degrees of data variables, it was evident that activity can happen in a wide array of scenarios. However, there are a few variables that highlight the greatest chance to see the lights. So, that is where the focus is now. Will it work? I don't know. So far, watching the lights across Canada and the only valid data for the area here in Anchorage this season points to YES! This newest version also added a goal: the gallery. Aurora activity is truly a thing of beauty and, while my focus is on video, several wonderful photographers capture her in all of her beauty. I wanted a way to showcase that and...now we've got it! Another recent addition (yesterday, in fact) was the WSA-Enlil model graphic for the current hour. Take it with a grain of salt...it is a model after all...but, it is a good visual of what the experts are projecting to happen in the current hour; and, it is great info to have to see if tonight might be a good night! I hope you enjoy the app! As development continues, it has been amazing to have a chance to put my web programming and education skills to the test! Current thoughts are still lingering about setting up a subscription fee but, truth be told, my payment is in the use and excitement I hear from people using it. Time will tell but I think, for now anyway, Amazing Aurora will continue to be free (with just one little pesky ad to deal with)! If you like what you see and you use the app, feel free to drop in a donation. Every little bit helps offset the costs of keeping the engine purring!
  10. Well, it went live a lot quicker than I thought it would, but version 4 of the app is now live on both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store! I thought it might take a few days to a week to go live, but they hit the shelves in less than a day! Great stuff! So, what's all new with version 4? The biggest change with version 4 is the rewrite of the navigation bar at the bottom. It was a home-brewed table build to function as a navigation menu to remove the pesky white bar at the bottom of the iPhone 12 (perhaps other iPhones too). However, the ultimate sacrifice for appearance was performance. That did not sit well with me, so I completely revamped the navigation bar to use the native bar and just accept that I am going to have some literal white space at the bottom of the app...for now. I also added the option to keep your screen awake. This is PERFECT for those of us chasing the lights and not wanting to keep unlocking our phones. The main page refreshes every minute too, so you can literally keep it running and just monitor for updates! Another change is the addition of the gallery. Who doesn't LOVE aurora photos?! I would like to feature some of the photos taken by app users, so there are directions on the Gallery tab on how to get your photos into me. It doesn't matter when it was taken, as long as it was by you. Just send them in and I'll take care of the rest! The favorable conditions alert is finally functional, if even in a self-imposed beta status right now. I am not sure if it is going to work 100% but, hey, you have to start somewhere, right?! That said, give me feedback so I can fix it! Speaking of feedback...you can now directly message from Facebook Messenger, even without an account! So, if you are having issues and need some help or find a bug, give a shout! It goes to the page's Messenger account and will alert me that I have messages. Too easy! I also spent a lot of time during the summer months concocting a formula for activity and when it will be most favorable. It is now implemented and, again, will be tested out throughout this next season and tweaked continually if needed. The previous method worked great for the area around 61N latitude, but it did not appear to perform well on a much wider, global scale. This knew one appears to be running good, so we'll see how it does. I need feedback to help tweak it so, please, get out there and use the app...more outside of the U.S. please! That's it for now with this update. Again, if you see any bugs or experience any issues, reach out to me. I will get them fixed as soon as I can!
  11. While not necessarily built into the app, Twitter integration is something I have been working on for a while now. I just didn't know what exactly I wanted to do. With the completion of testing this morning, I am happy to report that Kp alerts and sighting reports are now live on Twitter! The Kp alert will generate every 30 minutes when the current and/or forecast Kp value reaches 4 or higher. The sightings report will generate every five minutes when reports have been received in the preceding five minutes and indicate the number of reports and the location of the latest report received. Here's to an exciting upcoming aurora season, especially with the sun waking up a bit! 😀
  12. I have completed some minor under the hood maintenance on the app. After testing the app in Florida, Texas, Missouri, and Kansas, I noticed issues with the sun up/down calculations. I believe those are squared away. I also received two Kp alerts this morning, one for 4 and another for 5, so I looked at the data. There were several one-minute spikes this morning, thanks to the incoming solar wind material. So, I adjusted the notification to require an equal or greater previous minute Kp prior to kicking out an alert. So, we'll see if that fixes the increased number of alerts being received when we get this mini spikes!
  13. As I sat here working on the favorable conditions algorithm, I began looking back at the reports users had posted from the late part of the season. And, I realized my computations were way out of the ballpark. Early on, I had noticed that there was about a 26% difference in Bt across a degree of latitude. As I began working the favorable conditions algorithm, this put a negative number at some higher latitudes. Then, I began combing through the 89 reports and noticed the number, per degree, was a lot lower. We are looking more at a 2-4% change across one degree. So, that is what I am going to work with as we prep to enter the next season of aurora watching. We will see how it goes and I will likely have to make some tweaks to the numbers, but I feel this is the best way to go. Instead of using one singular number, 26%, each value has its own adjustment factor. After all, they are all different in their own right, so why not?! Feedback is crucial so, please, provide anything you can during the active season and I will work to make this THE best app for aurora watching/chasing!
  14. It has been a while since I have posted an update about the app, so I felt time to do so. Version 4 has been in the works for a couple of months now. I started working on bits and pieces of it towards the end of May. The development platform used to create and update the app is going through some significant changes in the next week, so I am trying to get ahead of those and prep for some new features they are giving us on the development side. That said, what can you expect from the next version? So far, I am nearing the testing phase of the favorable conditions alert. This is a tricky one since favorable conditions vary from one latitude to the next. Thus, I need to compute the favorability across a wide spectrum of numbers. However, I think I have a good algorithm for that and will, hopefully, be able to test that out in the next month or so. It is not a show stopper but it is a feature I desperately want to implement. In addition to that, I have tweaked the navigation bar in the app. The only drawback here is that I have a bar at the bottom of the screen on iOS that simply will not go away. However, in the grand scheme of things, I would be happier to have a snappier user experience with the navigation than to worry about a small, white bar at the bottom of the screen. So, if you have used any version of the app up to 3, you will see a noticeable change in the loading of screen on version 4. That is a definite plus! Another feature that has been tweaked is the settings screen. You will now have the ability to toggle an option to keep your screen awake. While some may think this is silly, it allows those who are constantly monitoring the data the ability to keep their phone screen awake. The main page of the data auto-refreshes every 60 seconds, so there is no need to keep refreshing the screen, flipping back and forth, or turning your phone back on. The screen also includes two data values: device app ID and last sync. These values are more for troubleshooting than anything. The app ID gives you a clear indication that your device was registered with the app and the last sync lets you know when the last time your settings were last successfully synced. These values should help with any issues that may arise in the future, so I am thinking ahead! Those are the biggest updates! I am hoping to have version 4 out for testing around mid-August and then live before activity really ramps up this winter! Thanks for reading and thank you for being part of this amazing community!
  15. We may...MAY...have another good shot at some good aurora activity coming up on April 16th. The weather for the week looks to be pretty bleak, but Friday's forecast is looking like partly cloudy skies with some potential clearing late. The problem is the lack of darkness. We will enter nautical twilight around 11:30 p.m. and come out of night at around 2:40 a.m. with the sun starting to move into sunrise. My experience this weekend was that activity was hard to see after about 3-4 a.m. due to the sun starting to rise and the activity being very faint. The Kp forecast is for a 4 on Friday, so we will see if that pans out and how it translates. Right now, I am looking to go out and set up around 1 a.m. but might go earlier depending on how data lines up. We shall certainly see!
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