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Everything posted by Ronnie

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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! 😄
  4. 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!
  5. 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!
  6. 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! 😀
  7. 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!
  8. 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!
  9. 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!
  10. 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!
  11. I have been keeping an eye on things for a few days now. The SWPC OVATION and hemispheric power index data has been down since around 11:30 a.m. AKDT on April 8th. I have not seen any updates on their site as to a reason for the outage or a timeframe on when it may be back online. Until then, this data will be down in the app and it is really beyond my control. Just keep checking back to see if it comes online!
  12. During the test phase, I noticed that none of the Canadian airports were pulling for some of our friends there. I did not realize how limited the data from the test API was. Once I flipped it over to full production, I found LOTS of Canadian airports! So, I went through and loaded them for the locations I had. It all appears to be working great now!
  13. I don't really have any idea what happened tonight. I was looking at the app on my phone and all was good. However, on my iPad, I started getting page errors. And, before I knew it, the entire site and app were down. Luckily, I had a backup from just over a week ago and all is well. Daily backups commence this evening and I will be ready to get everything flipped and restored again much quicker if it ever happens again. Total downtime was about two hours.
  14. Version 3 is out! There were a few bugs identified in Version 2 which needed to be addressed, so those were fixed in Version 3. The app was not properly displaying the user preferences after they were toggled in the settings screen. There was also an issue with the OVATION screen with respect to the N/S default setting. All of these have been fixed! In addition to the version 3 release, the weather API has changed to AccuWeather for displaying the hourly and 5-day forecasts for the user’s area. The new API has been amazing so far! Other minor fixes to new user dater loading have also been made! Please report any bugs! We don't want bugs!
  15. I had to throttle cloud data back a bit. I was updating all locations every hour and, with the growth of the number of sites loaded into the database, I must throttle back the amount of calls I am making to grab data. The next level up carries quite a price tag and that is not a cost I am looking to pay for a free (at this time) app. Thus, I am moved clouds from every hour to every six hours and we'll see how that goes!
  16. Version 2 is currently being worked. On March 27, the app had a great showing from various geographic regions. This caused some problems with storing information for users to present them with localized data. Version 2 will fix this and also add a Summer Silence option to silence notifications during the summer months and add a toggle switch to view the Southern Hemisphere OVATION data.
  17. It has been a crazy few weeks! I started development of an app on February 27, 2021 and have been feverishly working evenings and weekends to get the layouts, code, and information squared away just right...and I think I am finally there! The FINAL test build was pushed to my testing group tonight and early indications appear to show that it is ready to go! The only holdback now is to get approval for my free version which will feature Google Admob ads. Once the platform I am using approves that version, I will push it out to TestFlight for my testers and, barring any bugs, it will hit the streets on Saturday, March 20, 2021. Let's hope it all works out ok!
  18. Ok, it's official! The astronomical data block has been created! The block includes the sun antemeridian (the time the sun is directly opposite of the location), moon phase, and moon illumination percentage. This is all useful data for aurora viewing because we should see the maximum of the auroral oval when we are directly opposite of the sun and the amount of moon illumination, if it is above the horizon, is critical for the brightness of the aurora (although, it does not necessarily completely wash out the aurora).
  19. I acquired a timeanddate.com license to pull sun and moon data. I am still working on all of it, but I have added the data to the cloud forecast block. I think it will eventually move its way to its own block, but it will stay with the cloud data for now. Ultimately, I will use this to trigger the aurora indicator display (after sunset and until sunrise) and then display the moon phase and illumination. This gives an indication on whether we'll see great lights or ok lights, based on the amount of moonlight.
  20. Another great testing night last night! After seeing the arc form on Thursday night, I dialed the HP percentage up just a bit. I was 30 minutes late on Tuesday (65%) and 10 minutes early on Thursday (62.5%), so I have adjusted it to 63.125% of the forecast value and have it pretty dang close! Looking at some data from last night and comparing it with the captured data. I think we'll leave the settings alone for now. Looks like the indications are fairly accurate with the data we've had lately!
  21. So, last night was a great test for the algorithm! It was within about 35 minutes of spot-on for the start of the arc. That said, I’ve dialed it back just a touch more. I’m now looking at 62.5% of HP for the Anchorage area. We’ll see how that works over the next couple of days!
  22. Made another adjustment to the hemispheric power. Dropped it to 65% for our area. At 75%, it was showing aurora/arc possible and, looking at the Poker Flats camera, not much going on that I can tell. Dropping it to 65% gives us a flag at 31 HP. So, we'll see!
  23. Made an adjustment tonight on the hemispheric power. It was set at 100% which I do not feel is very accurate for us. I went up to Mt. Baldy tonight to get some observational data as it was saying the arc may be visible and there was nothing at all. HP was indicating 20s, so I docked HP by 25% to set it at 75% of the forecasted value. That, I think may be a better representation. As we get more views and reports in, I will continue to adjust. Once I made the change, it said conditions need to improve which is absolutely accurate with what I saw the past hour.
  24. Ronnie

    Aurora Watch

    Keeping an eye on the aurora forecast for February 28 to March 2. The forecast is for Kp5 on March 1 and Kp4 on Mar 2, so we may have some activity rotating around on the Sun. Worthy of keeping an eye on, although the cloud forecast looks dismal right now...
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